Monday, January 12, 2015

Conservatism as a Worldview

Conservatism is more often considered as a worldview--a comprehensive set of beliefs about the material universe, mankind's place in that universe, and the purposes of life for individuals, families, and political communities. Such fundamental beliefs may be called axioms, assumption, principles, or presuppositions.

Whatever their names, the basic beliefs that constitute anyone's worldview help interpret reality and provide meaning for that person's experiences. Of course, those basic beliefs can cause one to misinterpret experiences as well.  Although many of one's basic beliefs are shared by others in "overlapping" world views, it is the differences in basic beliefs that distinguish people from each other in their social, religious, and political views. Sometimes these differences are ones of degree; sometimes they are differences in kind.

(Writing about these ideas presents is own set of problems. It is all too easy to conflate propositions about what conservatism is with what is has been and personal views about what it ought to be.)

Like any other group, conservatives hold certain basic beliefs--or "eternal verities" as one conservative called them--that serve to unite those people known as conservatives across time and place. They provide the common thread that make the idea of conservatism intelligible.

Understanding those "eternal verities" is the first step in understanding conservatism itself.

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