In this chapter and the next I show how two different expressions of the modern culture of skepticism keep us from reading the Victorian liberals with either understanding or sympathy. My main topic in this first chapter is how this culture of skepticism has subtly conditioned most contemporary political theorists to respond to pluralism with only a narrow range of modest programs, and to treat more normatively ambitious programs, primarily perfectionist liberalism, as utopian at best.Though my primary focus in this chapter is contemporary political theory, I also consider in conclusion how scholars in Victorian studies, too, have been deeply influenced by this culture of skepticism, rendering them incapable of appreciating the Victorian “aspiration toward objectivity” until very recently, and even then only out of a kind of post-postmodern cri de coeur. By identifying, in examples from these two fields, the widespread academic tendency to reject out of hand the claim that human beings can achieve an objective moral perfection, I hope to begin to clear the way for the work of reconstruction in the latter two chapters.
KeywordsAdrenaline Defend Stake Alan Ethos
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