Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Conservatism for seculars

My piece for Free Inquiry is up.

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  • Thursday · October 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    This is a form of rationalism, in that the principle of fidelity to a particular social arrangement outlined in a religious text overrules the results of a real-world test.

    No, this is an adherence to transcendent values such as respect for authority, loyalty to your community and recognition of the sacred. As Jon Haidt has shown, conservatism is a moral orientation not an attitude towards change, though respect for authority would certainly include respect for things as they have always been done. This kind of conservatism is intuitionist, basically the opposite of rationalist, and doesn’t seem to depend on any particular religious text. There’s nothing against abortion in the Bible, for example.

    In contrast, liberals only worry about utility (harm/care) and how to divide those things up (fairness). You have some things that are at least in theory measurable, pleasure and pain, and then you try to raise the total amount of the former, minimize the the total amount of the latter, and then use certain techniques to decide as best as you can how much each person should get. That’s what rationalism is.

    But who can measure sacredness? You can’t.

    Secular conservatives are basically liberals who realize that abolishing authority, loyalty, and sacredness frequently lead to less utility and sometimes even to less fair ways of dividing it up. Aiming directly at happiness doesn’t seem to work, whether on an individual or societal level.

  • Thursday · October 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    There are a few schools of thought that try to give conservatism a rationalist gloss. I’d include a lot of Roman Catholicism under that, particularly writers like Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald, but even aspects of someone like Aquinas.

  • Author comment by MarkE · October 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Both sides are essentially idealist. The left or liberals worry a little more about justice, happiness or certain basic rights. The conservatives (not the secular ones)also adhere to ideals like respect of the older institutions , country , nation ,god etc.The author proposes a kind of cautious experimental approach (with which I tend to agree) but he is also an idealist because in those experiments he will look for a fairer better society without trying to destroy this world and build a new one on it’s rubble ,like the communists want to. The problem for me is in the fact nobody actually know what justice , happiness ,respect or basic human rights actually are.

  • Author comment by David Hume · October 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    As Jon Haidt has shown, conservatism is a moral orientation not an attitude towards change

    stop quoting scientists like this as if their models are well established. you did it before didn’t you? makes you look like a retard to me! (speaking as a scientist)

    the rest of your comment was very good. need to think on it….

  • Thursday · October 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Well, perhaps I overstated the certainty of the Haidt model, but Haidt et al. have tested the five foundation model using factor analysis and it accounts for the data better than the other, usually simpler, hypotheses that have been put out there. So, it seems pretty likely to be true. The popular treatment given in The Righteous Mind doesn’t much go into this.

  • Mark English · October 18, 2012 at 3:40 am

    I have commented here in the past as mark e., but I note that someone else is using MarkE (see comment above). In future I’ll use my full name (which I hope is not also the name of the other Mark!).

    I liked Razib Khan’s article, but would need to think about it some more before I could make any useful comments. Perhaps just two initial thoughts. I think Thursday’s main point is correct: we secular conservatives are basically liberals who see value in things we don’t really believe in. I would also question Razib’s dichotomy between large-scale and small-scale politics. It’s rhetorically useful but how real is it? (It’s a simplification, at best.)

  • A.A. Kidd · October 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Excellent work, Razib, although it’s not hard to look outstanding when your writing is running alongside a typical piece of incoherent drivel by Pat Schroeder!



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