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Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, studies and teaches political philosophy. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and[…]

Harvey Mansfield says philosophers first conceived this thing we call modernity.

Question: What are the major forces behind modernity?

Harvey Mansfield: The most influential forces have been philosophical. And I … and I would say the modern philosophers who first conceived and began this thing we call modernity, this revolutionary thing we call modern. And it’s also thinkers who have had second thoughts about modernity. So the original modern thinkers are people like Machiavelli and Hobbes and Locke and de Carte. But then there are those who came along later like Rousseau and Neitzsche who had second thoughts about modernity, and who formulated was is known today as “post modern” – post modern thought or behavior. I really do think that thought or philosophy is at the center of human life, even though not everything we do is directed by thought. And that … and that’s because the … the … the stupid things that we do are still inspired by some notion – some stupid notion perhaps – which has a notion to the early and classic and original thinking that was done by the great thinkers. So I really do believe in the power of ideas, and the fact of trickle down from the top.

Recorded on: 6/13/07