14 February 2010
More on Cooper's biography of Woodrow Wilson
On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. His speech carried a sense of regret that such a duty should have been placed upon him by history. Near the end, he said: "It is a distressing and oppressive duty, Gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial .. ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance."
Cooper quotes this and comments. "Above all, this speech was not a call to a holy war. America was making an unsought, inescapable choice. The actions of others had rendered it necessary, he believed, to plunge into the most terrible war yet in human history."
The same speech ended with the phrase "God helping her, she [the United States] can do no other." This sounds Lutheran to Cooper, who says that Wilson was "casting America in the same role that Luther cast the Christian believer. For Luther, no one could know God's will .... Nor could the Christian avoid sin; he or she must, Luther declared, 'sin boldly.' This is what Wilson was asking his country to do."
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.