Daily Archives: March 29, 2011

Frye Quote of the Day: “This is liberalism”

Here’s a nice addition on the anniversary our nation was signed into law: Frye in “Trends in Modern Culture” describes liberalism as “the true faith in democracy”:

This is liberalism, the doctrine that society cannot attain freedom except by individualizing its culture. It is only when the individual is enabled to form an individual synthesis of ideas, beliefs, and tastes that a principle of freedom is established in society, and this alone distinguishes a people from a mob. A mob always has a leader, but a people is a larger human body in which there are no leaders or followers, but only individuals acting as functions of the group. Tolerance of disagreement and criticism among such individuals is necessary, not because uniform truth is nonexistent or unattainable, but because the mind is finite and passionate. (CW , 237)

Edward Greenspon in The Toronto Star today illustrates why the Harper government does not meet this standard:

For all its neglect, Liberalism actually stands for something important. It is, in the words of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, not a neutral concept but “a fighting creed.” It says: “That is not the way we do things” in the face of illiberal behaviours, whether these be misleading MPs about signatures on documents, failing to disclose the costs of fighter jets or prisons, proroguing Parliament rather than abide by rulings, attacking the legitimacy of independent watchdogs from Elections Canada to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, jamming the judiciary or weakening the channels of knowledge by which decisions can be taken on the basis of evidence rather than belief.

British North America Act

Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British North America Act on this date in 1867, to take effect on July 1st.

Frye in “Criticism and Environment”:

The second stage of cultural development in Canada revolves around the Confederation of 1867, the union of the two Canadas, now Ontario and Quebec, with two Maritime Provinces, and eventually British Columbia. This stage is characterized by a search for a distinctively “Canadian identity,” more particularly in English Canada, and attached to this search are a number of critical fallacies that are important to diagnose. The first and most elementary of these is the fallacy of the exclusive characteristic, or nonexistent essence, the attempt to distinguish something that is, in this case, “truly Canadian,” and is not to be found in other literatures. There are no exclusive or even defining characteristics anywhere in literature: there are only degrees of emphasis, and anyone looking for such characteristics soon gets as confused as a racist looking for pure Aryans. (CW 12, 573-4)