Edmund Burke anticipated what would become one of the chief sources of the dynamism and discontent of modernity, namely the fact that beliefs -in transcendence and authority- must become accountable to reason. However, for Burke, far from arguing progress in our condition, "the Empire of light and reason" exposes us to truths we cannot bear for, he says, as powers withers away, our illusions will also fade, and this new nakedeness will leave us immensely vulnerable, exposing and revealing both to ourselves and to others the true ugliness of our condition. Scrutiny of social relations by the implacable gaze of reason can only tear down the harmonious web of meanings on which traditional power, obedience and fealty rested. To be tolerable, human existence requires myth, illusions, and lies. Only lies and illusions can make the violence of social relationships bearable. What Burke is saying is that Reason's indefatigable attempts to unmask and track down the fallacies of our beliefs will leave us shivering in the cold, for only beautiful stories -not truth- can console us.
Eva Illouz, Love, reason, irony.