I submit that a vision of this kind is what motivated the heroines with whom I began this essay. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Yeonmi Park, and Deborah Feldman decided that they were not on the path that they knew was right—when they sought the opportunity to apply their own minds to the problem of living, to


pursue happiness and realize their talents and virtues, they devoted themselves to that vision as much as any hero of romantic literature—but their goal was not the mindless primitive impulses of Romantic philosophers. It was a rational vision of the free and self-disciplined mind. They did indeed disrupt the “family stability” and “communal solidarity” that had been foisted upon them.



They did indeed seek to “rudely [tear] off” the “drapery of life” in which they had been smothered. They sought a world devoted to individualism, objectivity, either/or thinking, and the written word. They sought a world of autonomy, universality, and the human end purpose of their acts. They did it to seek their rational happiness as free and independent beings, because they know that their lives and their minds are their own, and that the enjoyment of their own lives is a value to be nurtured and celebrated. They are better for it—and so are all of u


1. “Lyceum Scholars Program,” Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, https://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/capitalism/lyceum/ (accessed March 10, 2020); also see C. Bradley Thompson, “The Lyceum Scholars Program Is Changing Higher Education at Clemson,” FEE, November 16, 2017, https://fee.org/articles/the-lyceum-scholars-program-is-changing-higher-education-at-clemson/.

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