Model of Civility

Aron strikes me as the very model of a responsible intellectual, a social philosopher of intellectual power and prudence who served his society with great courage and considerable style.

— John A. Hall. The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency, Princeton University Press, 2013, p. 105

Couldn’t put it better. Take a moment to consider the number of public intellectuals whose boldness emanates from, as Taleb might say, because they have no “skin the game“.

Stanley Hoffman gets it:

Throughout his life, Aron had shocked the French by taking unfashionable stands, by flouting the conventional distinction between left and right, not because he liked to be provocative (to be sure, he did not mind it), but because of his passion against myths and prejudices, his need for intellectual lucidity, and his attachment to liberal values.

His greatest influence was teaching them how to think about history, politics, and society—or rather, how to think if one refused all “secular religions,” all philosophies of history that pretend to know the purpose and the march of mankind, that begin by rejecting the world as it is and aim at total revolution.

Main Currents of Sociological Thought (1960–1962) and the first volume of Clausewitz (a masterpiece of close textual analysis, interpretation, and erudition, written when Aron was seventy) are the best examples of his combination of empathy and critical penetration.

Aron’s vision of mankind was tragic . . .