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Virginia Postrel is an author and speaker whose work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture, commerce, and technology. Postrel[…]

In the potential of the individual and the value of learning.

Virginia Postrel: Well there is a philosophy, but it’s not a simple creed. Which is hard for people to understand sometimes because I’ve edited this libertarian magazine for 10 years. And a lot of people think that can be summed up as something like government is bad, which I don’t believe. Or even freedom is good, which I do believe; but then what do you mean by freedom and exactly how do you express it? I think that there is a belief in potential of the individual, and individuals who join together to do things . . . voluntarily joining together to do things, creating institutions. I have a great belief in the value of learning as both an individual endeavor and a social endeavor. And a lot of what “The Future and Its Enemies” is really about at its core is how societies learn. And in some sense whether there’s some places you shouldn’t go, and whether it’s okay to have open-ended learning. How you find improvement. I have a sort of belief that we only get one life, and that while some people would take that to mean, you know, “Oh you should just be cool to other people,” I take it to mean that you really need to value other people’s lives and your own, and to maximize what you do with your life, and to recognize the value of other people’s lives as well. And looks to ways to improve the quality of the lives of others as well as yourself. And by the way, I don’t think there is anything wrong . . . This is not some sort of self abnegation. I believe that people should look to do well by themselves as well. But I like the Scottish philosophers that I very much admire from the 18th century. Hume and Smith and those people. I put a very high value on sympathy and empathy, and this sort of morale imagination to put yourself in another person’s place.