"The imagination as Wordsworth conceived it was then and remains now an antidote to the misguided translation of science into moral philosophy. Though the post-Newtonian reason-worship of the poet’s time is in some ways the polar opposite of the post-Einsteinian relativity of ours, they’re both built on a single error. Both attempt to transfer the mathematical certainties of the purely material world to moral structures, allowing pseudoscientific theory to overrule the moral wisdom of free individuals and their traditions. What Wordsworth saw was that moral reality was neither subject to absolute reason, nor random and relative, but a slow processional interplay between the facts of creation and a human mind that was at once a part of that creation and its continual cocreator. In some sense, if we must have a scientific correlation, Wordsworth, along with Blake and Keats, developed an artistic anticipation of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics: an idea that reality is both independently extant and a product of the human consciousness that perceives it.
Giving a new centrality to that inner human experience conferred—as Wordsworth understood—a fresh legitimacy on the Western tradition and its elevation of the individual and his liberty. The “inward eye” is not only, as Wordsworth wrote, “the bliss of solitude”; its essential role in the moral order provides a rationale for the individual’s demand for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness because it is these that lead him, generation by generation, toward greater truth and beauty. Both sweeping utopian governance and relativistic tolerance of self-strangling cultures ultimately become equally violent and oppressive because neither can accommodate the imagination’s solitary cry of “I am—and I will be free.”