I can only describe the moment as an epiphany, with all that that implies. “An age of prudence” was my own age of rationalism. There was no reason to exist. But I did: not because I could prove it, or because I knew, but because in that utterly human moment of terror and sacrifice that gave meaning, I recognized that it didn’t matter. I didn’t need a good reason to love. But I did.
I have said very little so far about my politics. The entire edifice of my beliefs had rested on that rationalist Weltanschauung. I had been liberal in the classical sense: I had considered Man as an atomized, self-complete individual, engaged with the world through choice and rational thought. When the framework for that conceptual system fell apart, so too did its results.
The Enlightenment was greatness. Two centuries after its denouement it is in fact conservative to defend it. Rational physical systems pervade our lives. But the power of the Enlightenment conceit, rationality’s moment of hubris, stopped at the limits of society and psychology. The sciences of society are still primitive affairs, and one could argue that psychology is still a science in its infancy if powers of prediction are any judge.