[I]n this culture of perfect intellectual confidence […] everything is sooner or later penetrated and unmasked—this culture of explanation, in which all the ancient problems are either solved or scorned, and every obscurity of human life, every fog and every cloud, is just a research paper away from satisfactory clarification. There is no riddle of existence that cannot be resolved, or robbed of its sting, in a David Brooks column. We are lucid now, and efficient; we are the quickest studies who ever lived. We throw no shadows. We know how things really work. We have the definite measure of everything. (Happiness, for example, is defined for us by social science; is an objective of public policy). Even as we cozily admit our fallibility, we exempt nothing from our brilliance. We dispel inwardness with our analysis of it. Hurriedly and without any suspicion that precious things are being driven away, we march smartly through all the pains and all the perplexities, and we call this dream of transparency, this aspiration to control, this denial of finitude, reason.
But it’s not, he goes on to say: “Reason is more provisional, more modest, more patient.” Read on. The occasion is the evisceration of late Philip Roth: “All mastery, no mystery.”