Saturday, January 3, 2015

Conservatism: Prolegomena and Problems

One of the problems with writing about conservatism is that people hold so many ideas about what is means.

For some, conservatism is a temperament--a disposition that certain people exhibit as they interact with the world.

For some, conservatism is  commitment to tradition and resistance to change.

For some, conservatism is a set of "eternal verities"--a set of beliefs that stand the test of time even in our ever changing world.

And for some, conservatism is an ideology--a program for political action in order to bring certain things to pass.

Perhaps these are all facets of conservatism. We will look at each in turn.

Another challenge is identifying who counts as "conservative." It is only in modern times that individuals or organizations have explicitly identified themselves as conservative, even as they disagree over what that means.

And historians often label people in the past as conservative even without troubling to tell their readers the criteria for determining their assertions. Moreover, both professional historians and casual readers occasionally make the mistake of presentism: reading contemporary ways of thinking anachronistically back into the past. And then there's the mistake of reading past ways of thinking into the present modern world.

Does anyone really know WWJD?

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