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By B. Southgate

Southgate attracts on principles inside of background, philosophy, literature, psychology, and theology to discover traditions: contentment with our state of affairs because it is, and the aspiration to go beyond it. He discusses the prospect of escape from highbrow constraints, and advocates a good 'duty of discontent', and its implications.

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Extra info for Contentment in Contention: Acceptance versus Aspiration

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Thus, when asked early in this new millennium to identify his own political ‘philosophy’ (by which was presumably meant the foundational beliefs from which his policies derived – hardly an unreasonable question to put to a political leader), the British Prime Minister Tony Blair was clearly taken aback. The self-conscious formulation of general principles is hardly needed, or even acceptable, where short-term expediency is all the rage, and when the supreme political virtue is considered to be getting and keeping ‘real’ in relation to ‘the facts’.

That re-presented past then forms the basis of a narrative – a narrative possessing a sense of direction, and revealing a meaningful thread that leads to the present and on to the future. The resultant sense of continuity contributes importantly to the formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of identities both public and private; but its problematic nature can be illustrated by reference to the concept of ‘human nature’. For history plays a central role in relation to that concept, enjoying a mutually supportive or reciprocal relationship: while history has generally been written, as just indicated, in such a way as to underpin human nature as a stable and enduring concept, human nature itself, as we shall now see, has to be assumed to be ‘real’ enough for it to be frequently appealed to as a form of historical explanation.

For it is clear that the natural world can never be similarly reduced to any sort of unity or understood as such: it is far too complex for that. Indeed, explains Emerson, ‘nature is one thing and the other thing, in the same moment’; and being thus ambiguous, it refuses to be caught and explicated within our own logic-orientated intellectual categories: ‘She will not remain orbed in a thought’, or confined within the limitations of our own thinking. Following our human needs, we desperately try to position ourselves tidily within certain limits, to confine and constrain everything: that is how we have learnt to cope with it all.

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