Over the years, my adult thinking on issues has evolved. I’ve labeled myself as an atheist, anti-totalitarian, socialist, social democrat, liberal, progressive, moderate, neo-con, Buddhist, conservative, libertarian, objectivist, and Deist. Yet all along I never changed my core principles. How can I have professed belief in so many divergent causes and ideologies?
What I have done is realigned my thinking and the expression of my beliefs with my core values and eliminated the contradictions. I am a child of the Enlightenment. I am a Promethean.
“Promethean” is not a normal label. You may wonder what a Promethean is. In a few words: a Promethean is a radical for the ideals of the Enlightenment, that is, a believer in the power and value of being a fully aware, rational, and self-taught free-thinker.
We challenge conventional thought and never accept an assertion on faith. Throughout history, we have been marginalized and demonized by “moderate men” as “Jacobins,” “extremists,” “heretics,” and “untrained auto-didacts.” Prometheans are against group-think and resist letting others form our opinions and do our thinking for us. We will not always agree with each other, nor should we. We believe in the marketplace of ideas, rational debate, and open minds.
We are not “activists” seeking to promote an agenda, blinding ourselves and others to other possibilities. Truth is no one’s handmaiden. As historian and literary scholar Clare Spark states in her blog on Promethean historians,
“Nothing and no one is sacred, especially not our own work. Writing history entails reconfiguring the past and sometimes, with new evidence, overthrowing our own most cherished assumptions. If we can’t do that, we don’t deserve the name of scholar, but are courtiers or theologians. Which is fine, only don’t pretend to be a participant in the Enlightenment or in the profession of writing history.”
We stand with the great artists, writers, poets, scientists, and classical liberal economists of the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. We are against demagoguery and rhetorical bullies, even if we agree with them on issues. We see danger in what Clare Spark calls “organic conservatism”, the modernist “progressive” movements of the 20th century, for giving lip-service to freedom and democratic ideals, but demanding conformity and denying individuality and creative thinking. Suppression is not a provenance of the Left or the Right; every group has anti-individualists claiming the political middle ground.
We value Truth, Knowledge, and Rationality in our pursuit of Understanding and Beauty. Man is a noble creature, unburdened by guilt or original sin. We love civilization and mankind’s achievements. We are optimistic about the future.