In 1809, when he was thirty-seven, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge paused to recall a youthful dream, a plan he had hatched fifteen years earlier to immigrate to America and start there a new society governed by his own homemade intellectual system, which he called Pantisocracy. He wrote:
What I dared not expect from constitutions of Government and whole Nations, I hoped from Religion and a small Company of chosen Individuals, and formed a plan, as harmless as it was extravagant, of trying the experiment of human Perfectibility on the banks of the Susquehannah; where our little society, in its second generation, was to have combined the innocence of the patriarchal Age with the knowledge and genuine refinements of European culture; and where I had dreamt of beholding, in the sober evening of my life, the Cottages of Independence in the undivided Dale of Industry.
Why should innocence be left only to the savage? Why shouldn’t disenchanted Europeans get into the act? It was merely a matter, thought young Coleridge, of organizing society properly. “The leading idea of Pantisocracy,” he wrote in a letter of 1794, “is to make men necessarily virtuous by removing all Motives to Evil—all possible Temptations…. It is each individual’s duty to be just, because it is in his Interest. To perceive this and assent to it as an abstract proposition—is easy—but it requires the most wakeful attentions of the most reflective minds at all moments to bring it into practice.” Though Coleridge’s mind was most certainly reflective and his attentions utterly wakeful, it does not appear to have occurred to him to ask whether what it in our Interest is therefore in our Power.
—Jacobs, Alan (2009-10-13). Original Sin. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education by Stanley FishMy rating: 5 of 5 stars I have read multiple Stanley Fish books; I read quite a number of these columns when they were originally published in the New York...