Saturday, November 18, 2023

“There are no lost causes..."

About a book I first read in the '60s:
By reason of longevity alone, The Conservative Mind, as of 2023 a septuagenarian, is a classic. But “maturity” is more than a chronological marker. It describes a quality of mind, a force of habit, a disposition and refinement of what Kirk, following Burke, would not have been too shy to call “prejudice.” By that standard, The Conservative Mind is like some lexical Athena. It was born mature, fully-armed and ready for battle. ....

The philosopher Roger Scruton once observed that Kirk showed that conservatism is fundamentally not an economic but a cultural outlook, and that conservatism “would have no future if reduced merely to the philosophy of profit. Put bluntly,” Scruton said, “conservatism is not about profit but about loss: it survives and flourishes because people are in the habit of mourning their losses, and resolving to safeguard against them.” I think that is correct. ....

Kirk’s book helped restore conservatism’s patent of intellectual respectability. A brief introduction outlines the six touchstones of Kirk’s conservative vision: “belief in a transcendent order”; “affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence”; a commitment to ordered liberty; a recognition that “freedom and property are closely linked”; faith in prescription against the putative expertise of the “sophisters, calculators, and economists” that Burke memorably anathematized in Reflections on the Revolution in France; and the understanding that change is not synonymous with improvement (Kirk would have liked Lord Falkland’s observation that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change”). ....

Kirk was almost Chestertonian in his fondness for paradox. One of my favorite Kirkian observations is that he was a conservative because he was a liberal. What goes under the banner of “liberalism” today has so thoroughly cut itself off from such traditional animating liberal imperatives as free speech, disinterested inquiry, and advancement according to merit that it is easy to regard Kirk’s declaration as merely paradoxical. But it was not paradoxical so much as it was admonitory, recalling us to springs of freedom that only an embrace of tradition can nourish. .... (more)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.