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Thomas Sowells Vision of Ideological Conflict1 IntroductionWhy is it that political debate unlike scientific debate neverends and never yields general agreement Thomas Sowells AConflict of Visions is in many ways an attempt to answer thisquestion He begins with the observation prevalent amonghistorians of science that before scientists try to formulate aprecise theory or test it against the facts they have an intuitivesense a vision of what they think the right answer is Sowellthinks that what is true of scientists is at least as true of politicalthinkers and indeed anyone with opinions on political matterseveryone has their own intuitive sense their own vision of howthey think society works long before they make any attempt to laydown a theory or investigate the facts In itself this would not be particularly interesting but Sowellweds this claim to a more controversial one According to Sowellmost political visions fall into one of two categories theconstrained and the unconstrained Now it is important to getSowells intent clear at this point He does not want to divide upideas in such a way that they logically have to fall into one categoryor another He does not want to split ideas up into for examplethose that believe A and those that believe not-A Instead Sowellwants to come up with an empirical classification he wants toshow that out of a very large number of logically possible visions alarge majority of the visions that people actually hold and have heldfit into just two compact boxes 2 The Conflicting Visions Described and DefinedNow Sowell distinguishes the constrained and theunconstrained visions in two different ways Firstly he sketchesthe perspective of each vision on such broad topics as humannature the efficacy of human reason and economics Theunconstrained vision believes human nature is potentiallyperfectible with proper institutions and upbringing the averageperson would do the morally right thing regardless of externalincentives The constrained vision in contrast thinks that thelimits for moral improvement are stringent so it is necessary torely on external
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