I Was Asked The Other Day About The Conservative Temperment…

There is a habit among naturalists and those working in the sciences I know towards sustained abstract thinking and problem-solving.  Many of the profound questions underlying, say, the push to Mars, are, in fact to find out if life could be there (possibly microbial life beneath the surface now or long ago).

From what I’ve observed, such a task requires one’s use of reason, imagination, math skills, engineering experience, and people skills to build a rover to solve particular problems. It can yield incredibly precise and long-lasting knowledge of the natural world, and keeps yielding new data coming back from the surface of our nearest neighboring planetary body.

It also takes smarts, courage and dedication.

I’ve learned how you ask questions can be as important as the questions themselves, and the questions you ask can sometimes, curiously, be more important than the answers you get.  The ‘method’ used to achieve these milestones has much to do with a crowning tradition and achievement of human endeavor, particularly of Western thinking, thus far.

More deeply, we’ve all wondered why we might be here, why there’s such joy, friendship and love in our lives but also so much suffering, pain and death.  It’s pretty much an axiomatic truth that everything which lives must die.  This is the tragedy each of us must bear, laughing all the way to grave or trodding carefully, with utmost seriousness.  Boredom so often overtakes us.  Familiarity breeds contempt.

Religious traditions and metaphysics offer answers to many deep questions, but I generally remain unconvinced they’re always able to offer the best path towards that which is true.

One of the broadest appeals conservatism has for me is its tragic view of human nature.  Upon reading many poems, and songs, and engaging in trying to write poems and compose basic two-voice songs myself, I’ve found that much of my own nature is deeply flawed.  As any of us who’ve experienced love can attest, or getting a well-deserved punched in the nose along the way, it is usually for some flaw or fear we know to be true in ourselves for which we can punish others.

Looking inwards, I am capable of noble, chivalrous sacrifice and exertions of steady will, but frankly, I’m also capable of very selfish, petty, blind impulses and urges. I’ve learned to be very careful what I find myself thinking, as I believe my thoughts dictate who I become.

I tend to see human civilization as thin veneer over a valueless Nature.  Each moment is ours to discover, and to choose more than we may ultimately know, though few, if any of can live with such intensity in all but a few moments of our lives.  We human beings can’t bear too much truth for too long.

I tend to see our traditions and laws, institutions and language as tissues of contingency, ever-changing in a changing world and no better nor worse than the individuals and ideas bouncing around within them at any given time.

Hope that helps!

***What have I got wrong?  What am I missing?

 

If This Ain’t Classic NPR, I Don’t Know What Is-Good Stewardship Is Hard To Find

I’ve probably projected some of my own prejudices onto this simple story of a man returning to natural urban environments and natural ink-making technologies:

If urban people possess no ink, can they be said to live in an ‘Art Desert?’

On that note, I’d like to extend a naturally grown, non-GMO Olive Branch to anyone in the humanities seeking good stewardship of the books, poems and works of art that might mean something to you.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m worried some of these ideological true-belivers (cultists, really) have taken over many university sinecures and popular liberal publications (The Atlantic, The New Yorker).

Like you, I just want to read a good poem now and again, and frankly, I know it’s not cheap (no, I’m not asking for money), but it shouldn’t be this costly.

Hippie idealism can be woven into a thread of philosophical idealism which can provide some direction as to that thorny old question of:  ‘Why should I read this stupid old poem, anyways?’

‘Just because, man’ is probably a better answer than: ‘For the coming revolution, comrade’ or to ‘to smash the Patriarchy, believe all women and destroy all men.’

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

A taste of her Nussbaum here. Also, see: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents? Great authors? Public intellectuals? Professors? God? Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders? A school-board? A democratic majority? People who think like you? A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

uploaded by mattbucher

Kenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

Full essay here.

Thanks to a reader for the link.   Deep but very readable.  How universal is the desire for individual freedom?:

‘Some people take the view that we in the West are fortunate to enjoy freedom, because it is a universal human aspiration that has been commonly frustrated in most societies. This is one of the more pernicious illusions we entertain about human kind. Most people have never lived in free societies, nor exhibited any desire or capacity for freedom’

and:

‘What most people seem to want, however, is to know exactly where they stand and to be secure in their understanding of their situation.’

Isn’t that last part a universal claim upon human nature?  If so, Minogue generally resisted the idea that evolutionary theories could be transferred successfully to Statecraft.

He is arguing that it’s easy to mistake your experiences and ideas within our Western tradition for that of peoples everywhere.

Maybe you’ve traveled and experienced the tribal taboos and family/kin loyalties of smaller bands and ethnic groups.  Maybe you’ve been up close to the transcendental submission of will in faith in Islam, uniting a patchwork of tribes and peoples under its claims with high honor ethic and a strong warrior tradition (the individual doesn’t choose whether to drink or have women work outside of the home).   Maybe you’ve seen the caste system in India, or the authoritarian feudal landownership structure in Pakistan, or the ancient, imperial Chinese structure with a Han core, now still a strong State structure charting some kind of course out of Communism.

What is unique about our traditions?

Towards the end of the essay:

‘The balance in our tradition between the rules we must respect because they are backed by the authority of law, and the free choice in the other elements of our life is one that free agents rightly will not wish to see disturbed.’

Food for thought.

Roger Kimball quoting Minogue:

The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Rulers are adding moral judgments to the expanding schedule of powers they exercise. Nor does the state deal merely with principles. It is actually telling its subjects to do very specific things. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?’

R.I.P.

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Related On This Site:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

..Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New HumanismEd West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism