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Thread: Is American "idealism" healthy?

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    Is American "idealism" healthy?

    I am heading to Europe in two weeks, and was just thinking about how America and Britain differ.

    America, it strikes me, is much more old fashioned than Britain. Britain is a very Republican place.

    They believe in the sovereignty of one’s own self and one’s own opinion, and believe that one man is as good as the next… that all men are equal. It’s a very British way of looking at things.

    America, conversely, has a class system. We believe in the primacy of money and of hierarchies and…. most interestingly….. we actually believe in BELIEVING IN THINGS.



    And here is the main point of my post, and probably the biggest difference between cultures…



    Unlike Americans, Brits are a very skeptical people. If you wanted to define the English character in a more intellectual way, I would say that they are “empirical.”

    Britain’s greatest gift to Europe and to the intellectual thrust of the last 500 years has been empiricism. It’s how Newton beat Pascal... how he was right. The French are rationalists, Brits are not, and in fact they distrust rationalism and superstition as being two wings of the same heresy.

    That’s also why Britain has an established church in which no-one believes… because their empirical nature leads them to test things.

    In America, we have almost a religious idea about liberty. One could say that we fetishize the ideal of liberty.

    In fact, we have this tendency with other things as well. We fetishize the right to bear arms without really testing it.

    The Brits have a more “let’s test it. Does that work?” Attitude. In America, on the other hand, everything rises and falls by the constitution and the ideals it imparts.

    It follows then that in America, freedom of speech becomes more important than justice because freedom of speech is fetishized in the constitution. To a Brit, that idea is preposterous. To a Brit, being just to people is the first end of a state, in other words, the most important function of a state is to be a just state. Not for it to be a free state, but freedom is a good means of achieving a just state.

    In other words, freedom of speech is a concept, and justice is concrete.

    So my question to you…. do you think the idealistic nature of Americans is as the empiricism of our counterparts across the pond, or is our sense of idealism simply the sign of a young, perhaps naive state that hasn’t quite figured it all out yet?

    Personally, I believe the Brits have it right. Would like to hear your thoughts.

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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Forgot to add the poll, maybe a mod can help.

    Is American "idealism" healthy?

    A.) Yes, the constitution imparts ideals which makes American government and society better
    B.) No, one should always test every idea empirically and enact laws based solely upon what proves to work vs what doesn't
    C.) Other

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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    I never noticed much difference. America and Britain seem almost mirror images of each other, the traditional transatlantic animosity notwithstanding. There's nothing like the level of insight and analysis among the majority, as that expressed in the OP. Any differences are only reflected in how such idealism is literally codified in either country. As far as that goes, we find differences, but only as far as that goes. In practice, the everyday result is one of similarity. If there's any enduring difference at all, it's in the prioritisation of religion, as is mentioned in the OP.

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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    We have the skeptical equivalent of Great Britain.


    We call it Missouri.

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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Quote Originally Posted by NoC_T View Post
    I never noticed much difference. America and Britain seem almost mirror images of each other, the traditional transatlantic animosity notwithstanding. There's nothing like the level of insight and analysis among the majority, as that expressed in the OP. Any differences are only reflected in how such idealism is literally codified in either country. As far as that goes, we find differences, but only as far as that goes. In practice, the everyday result is one of similarity. If there's any enduring difference at all, it's in the prioritisation of religion, as is mentioned in the OP.
    I think one of the key differences betwen ourselves and America is the concept of free speech. You believe that everyone should have the right to say what they want where as we believe that you should only speak if what you saying is worthwhile .
    Also relgion is something done in private here and it's very rare for a politician, celebrity to push an agenda based on relgious values. Where as in the US relgion is often used as a weapon or to reinforce a political point.
    ‘This is not peace, it is an armistice for 20 years.’ (Ferdinand Foch. After the Treaty of Versailles, 1919).

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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins86 View Post
    I think one of the key differences betwen ourselves and America is the concept of free speech. You believe that everyone should have the right to say what they want where as we believe that you should only speak if what you saying is worthwhile .
    Also relgion is something done in private here and it's very rare for a politician, celebrity to push an agenda based on relgious values. Where as in the US relgion is often used as a weapon or to reinforce a political point.
    Sounds good to me.

    Also, off topic but love your avatar. So cute!
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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Grimm View Post
    I am heading to Europe in two weeks, and was just thinking about how America and Britain differ.

    America, it strikes me, is much more old fashioned than Britain. Britain is a very Republican place.

    They believe in the sovereignty of one’s own self and one’s own opinion, and believe that one man is as good as the next… that all men are equal. It’s a very British way of looking at things.

    America, conversely, has a class system. We believe in the primacy of money and of hierarchies and…. most interestingly….. we actually believe in BELIEVING IN THINGS.



    And here is the main point of my post, and probably the biggest difference between cultures…



    Unlike Americans, Brits are a very skeptical people. If you wanted to define the English character in a more intellectual way, I would say that they are “empirical.”

    Britain’s greatest gift to Europe and to the intellectual thrust of the last 500 years has been empiricism. It’s how Newton beat Pascal... how he was right. The French are rationalists, Brits are not, and in fact they distrust rationalism and superstition as being two wings of the same heresy.

    That’s also why Britain has an established church in which no-one believes… because their empirical nature leads them to test things.

    In America, we have almost a religious idea about liberty. One could say that we fetishize the ideal of liberty.

    In fact, we have this tendency with other things as well. We fetishize the right to bear arms without really testing it.

    The Brits have a more “let’s test it. Does that work?” Attitude. In America, on the other hand, everything rises and falls by the constitution and the ideals it imparts.

    It follows then that in America, freedom of speech becomes more important than justice because freedom of speech is fetishized in the constitution. To a Brit, that idea is preposterous. To a Brit, being just to people is the first end of a state, in other words, the most important function of a state is to be a just state. Not for it to be a free state, but freedom is a good means of achieving a just state.

    In other words, freedom of speech is a concept, and justice is concrete.

    So my question to you…. do you think the idealistic nature of Americans is as the empiricism of our counterparts across the pond, or is our sense of idealism simply the sign of a young, perhaps naive state that hasn’t quite figured it all out yet?

    Personally, I believe the Brits have it right. Would like to hear your thoughts.
    Holy crap. That's the first obscure philosophical post that I've seen in years that might actually be good.

    While there's a kernel of idealism, most American idealism is actually frustration. We have a pioneering culture that teaches we need to pursue our self interests with aggression and energy. The world -- and everything and everyone in it -- is a tool for the individual to uses to advance themselves. When the realities of living in a democracy where everyone has a voice in their government forces people to acknowledge limitations to this self interest, they sink into resentful ideologies that empower them (in their imaginations, not in reality) to overcome the opposition. People use the word "republic" when they are threatened with the possibility something they don't like will happen to them while disregarding the actual meaning of what a republic is supposed to be.

    It's really more of a self-centered pragmatism than idealism. Americans believe strongly in the things that seem to work for us on a personal level, no matter how surreal or implausible they sound or the large scale consequences.
    Last edited by Morality Games; 07-22-14 at 01:02 PM.
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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Quote Originally Posted by americanwoman View Post
    Sounds good to me.

    Also, off topic but love your avatar. So cute!
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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    I've found UK culture to be more socially liberal. To me it seems culturally they're in a time-warp between 1970s America and 2014 San Fransisco. A friend online from there described ME of all people as a "right-wing extremist" by UK standards. Political correctness is of off the charts there. The concept of "tolerance" is probably their most cherished value; if not in deed, in word.

    Like much of the world, they are far more occupied with American politics than we are theirs.

    Class envy I've found to be big as many do not envision much upward mobility opportunity for themselves and take a "you're either born into or you're not" attitude.

    Nowhere near as many people drive, relying instead on public transportation. I know 40-year-olds who are just now getting drivers licenses or have never driven a car.

    Be careful about going to the beach; if its an older town its possible the sewage treatment waste feeds right into the ocean.

    Our immigrant community is made up mostly of Hispanics. Theirs are mostly South Asian/Indians with the greater percentage being of Pakistani heritage. It should not be surprising to see people who could be more supportive ideologically of Al Qaeda or the Taliban than they are of America.

    I imagine your biggest issue will be money. The currency exchange rate tough. $1 will get you .60 or their cents (or pence). Tipping is not customary however. If you rent a car, after you do the math, gasoline is about $8 to $9 a gallon. Closer to $9.
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    Re: Is American "idealism" healthy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins86 View Post
    I think one of the key differences betwen ourselves and America is the concept of free speech. You believe that everyone should have the right to say what they want where as we believe that you should only speak if what you saying is worthwhile .
    Also relgion is something done in private here and it's very rare for a politician, celebrity to push an agenda based on relgious values. Where as in the US relgion is often used as a weapon or to reinforce a political point.
    I'm not an American, but I agree as far as religion goes. Britain is a more secular society.

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