Thursday, June 24, 2010

Conservatism in a Nutshell

From the Front Porch Republic:

To “conserve,” however, is a fairly simple thing. While “liberals” and “progressives” keep changing what lovely things they see in the future, “conserving” means knowing what’s important and trying to save it.

Included in that definition is the reason why philosophy as classically conceived is necessary to conservatism (as opposed to the sort of scientistic materialism/determinism that is popular at the Secular Right.) Conservatism is only possible if we know what is important, but the secularist typically denies that such transcendent knowledge is possible. The classical conservative fights to preserve his family, his nation, his system of justice and the rule of law because he knows such things are worth preserving, not merely because he is subject to certain genetically determined "affinities" with respect to them.

What the secularist denies is the possibility of the education of the sentiments. Yes, we have tender feelings towards those we know and are like us, and we may feel nothing at all towards strangers. But, through reason and revelation, we may know the truth about justice and judge our sentiments according to it. We may cross to the other side of the road when we see the man lying in a ditch, but cannot we learn something from the Samaritan who stops to assist him? And is what we learn from him worth preserving, and worth establishing in a basis of education for future generations? Even if we feel nothing for the man in the ditch now, we may educate our sentiments to feel shame when we ignore him. And we may educate our children to the same. This is the essence of conservatism.

The secularist, denying the possibility of the transcendent knowledge of justice, denies the possibility of this sort of education. And without such education, we are left following whatever "affinities" nature, or nature's manipulators, happens to endow us with. This is not the freedom the secularist hoped for when he abandoned classical philosophy and religion, but slavery.

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