The arational conservative

Yale Brought Me to Conservatism:

I can only describe the moment as an epiphany, with all that that implies. “An age of prudence” was my own age of rationalism. There was no reason to exist. But I did: not because I could prove it, or because I knew, but because in that utterly human moment of terror and sacrifice that gave meaning, I recognized that it didn’t matter. I didn’t need a good reason to love. But I did.

I have said very little so far about my politics. The entire edifice of my beliefs had rested on that rationalist Weltanschauung. I had been liberal in the classical sense: I had considered Man as an atomized, self-complete individual, engaged with the world through choice and rational thought. When the framework for that conceptual system fell apart, so too did its results.

The Enlightenment was greatness. Two centuries after its denouement it is in fact conservative to defend it. Rational physical systems pervade our lives. But the power of the Enlightenment conceit, rationality’s moment of hubris, stopped at the limits of society and psychology. The sciences of society are still primitive affairs, and one could argue that psychology is still a science in its infancy if powers of prediction are any judge.

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4 Responses to The arational conservative

  1. A-Bax says:

    I’m curios about the seeming tension between the (conservative) notion, as riffed on by Karras, that our values function best when informed by tradition (if not out-rightly mandated by tradition), and the Enlightenment/Secular notion of individual freedom of conscience, choice, etc.

    As Hume says, it is now, 200+ years on, a *conservative* thing to defend the Enlightenment. But 500 years ago, the conservative reaction to the precepts of Enlightenment thinking would’ve been much different. (As is, not very supportive, to put it mildly.)

    In the same vein, I wonder if those of us with some libertine tendencies have an easier time being relatively conservative nowadays, since the 60s and the sexual revolution fought the battles many of us would have over “sex drugs, and rock & roll”. That is,…given how far along society had been pushed to the Left in terms of the culture wars (permissiveness regarding soft drug use, premarital relations, etc.), it’s fairly easy to say “lets keep things the way they are, let’s *conserve* what we have going here, and not get too carried away”.

    No sure where I’m going with this – only to say that I’m sure that if I were brought up in a REALLY conservative society, I would’ve rebelled against the serious constraints on the freedom therein, and would likely think that conservatism was just a way for those in power to maintain the status quo.

    But, as it stands now, the conservative disposition leads one to fight to *maintain* those individual freedoms against (what seems to be) the re-encroaching State.

  2. Donna B. says:

    What you write, A-Bax, makes sense to me in a visceral way. I can remember thinking in the ’60s that I should do everything I could before it “went out” of style.

    That included eating bacon and seared rare steaks, they cause cancer, you know.

    I think I am a conservative now because of so much news about everything “old” being “bad” in my formative years.

  3. Dain says:

    Whether a defense of The Enlightenment is “conservative” is a damned interesting question. Obviously, given the cognitive demands of the ideal Enlightenment form of inquiry, the world as it stands now is vastly conservative and reactionary. But from a class based point of view on essentially Marxist lines, the global state capitalists are dominant, rather rendering everyone else either a proletariat or simply an anachronism of some kind.

  4. Caledonian says:

    I’m not a conservative in any philosophical sense. It’s just that modern conservatism happens to agree with many of the positions I do hold. If conservatives favored other things, I couldn’t be considered conservative.

    As Conservatives tend to be anything but conservative, they tend to reject the Enlightenment concepts I approve of. As a consequences, I am deeply opposed to Conservatives.

    I am liberal; therefore, I oppose Liberalism. Same deal.

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