Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists

As long as your ideas of what's possible are limited by what's actual, no other idea has a chance.

Dogma--ideas uninformed by experience--is a form of ingratitude.

Every time you accept the claim that you can't change human nature or you have to accept the way the world is, you are accepting the foundations of the worldview that grounded the ancien regime.

[...] God's message is that we are largely on our own. We are the ones who give moral guidelines body and life. You can take, if you will, your solace in heaven, but you must work out your ethics on earth.

Human attempts to construct moral order are always precarious: If righteousness too often leads to self-righteousness, the demand for justice can lead to one guillotine or another.

If life is a gift, then the more you partake in it, the more you show thanks.

In the most general terms, the Enlightenment goes back to Plato's belief that truth and beauty and goodness are connected; that truth and beauty, disseminated widely, will sooner or later lead to goodness. (While we're making at effort at truth and goodness, beauty reminds us what we're hold out for.)

Kitsch is much more than a question of style; it's a preference for consolation over truth. Disney's version of reality is not just cleaned up, it's pernicious. Unlike the best forms of art and philosophy, it undercuts the possibility of transformation because it portrays a world that's just fine as it is--or as it will be by the time the credits come up.

Negotiating small differences is part of being a grownup; no one can tell you in advance where to put your foot down.

One great function of the arts is to keep ideals alive in a culture that does not yet realize them.

Ordinary goodness is fraught with veins of vanity and self-interest and above all with pleasure--because goodness makes you feel more alive.

Unlike kitsch, moral clarity is hard to come by. It means working to make sense of things you do not even want to acknowledge. It often means not knowing if you ever get it right.

Vitality is not the denial of mortality, but the grown-up way of facing it.

Whatever else you may need to get clarity, you must start with open eyes.

What the Enlightenment rejected in the South Sea islands was what it perceived as a stupor, the docile submission to whatever bit of the given is coming your way. And what's coming your way is unlikely to be a breeze or a cow or a coconut, but a new kind of screen you can zap or click to create the illusion that life isn't passing you by.

You may substitute knowledge for superstition without satisfying the needs that drive people into superstition's arms.