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Author Topic: What does conservatism mean to you?  (Read 401 times)

Stephen Tannhauser

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What does conservatism mean to you?
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2020, 10:06:23 PM »
Quote from: Pat;1146448
That's more a classic liberal view, which I would argue is not conservative.

Fair point, although if "conservative" means "anything that resists progressivism", then the defense of classical liberalism becomes conservative in practice.

And it might well be argued that classical liberalism is conservative compared to the ideologies and philosophies now battling it.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Pat

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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2020, 11:42:09 PM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146470
Fair point, although if "conservative" means "anything that resists progressivism", then the defense of classical liberalism becomes conservative in practice.

And it might well be argued that classical liberalism is conservative compared to the ideologies and philosophies now battling it.
OTOH, modern progressivism advocates things like curtailing individual rights (freedom of speech), bringing back the sins of the fathers (reparations), and throwing out legal protections. All of which are reactionary, reversions to the pre-Enlightenment era, not progressive in any real sense. Is opposing a reactionary conservative?

The right is associated with conservatism, but I think trying to define conservatism via the left-right political axis is a bad idea. The axis encompasses numerous ideologies and specific policies. In my mind, conservatism is broader than that. It's not a specific set of ideas -- though conservatives of any era always support a specific set of ideas -- as it is an approach. It's the go-slow, skeptical take on societal change. An appreciation for what's been accomplished, instead of neophilia. The expression of this varies by person and culture, and may be diametrically opposed to other conservatives.

And to answer my own question, a conservative is reluctant when it comes to radical changes of any kind, whether they're forward or back. So it is conservative to oppose reactionaries.

Steven Mitchell

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« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2020, 11:00:47 AM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146470
Fair point, although if "conservative" means "anything that resists progressivism", then the defense of classical liberalism becomes conservative in practice.

And it might well be argued that classical liberalism is conservative compared to the ideologies and philosophies now battling it.

It has been argued more than once (by people a lot more thoughtful than me) that the constitutional American approach is exactly that--the tension worked out by the founders between classical liberalism and conservatism.  In the ideal, of course, they didn't want parties.  They did see a healthy debate going on all the time between advancing liberty and respecting the traditions and institutions that would prevent mob rule or the problems of oligarchs (in their many historical forms).  The relative success of the USA has allowed both parties to largely abdicate this responsibility.

Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2020, 07:27:32 PM »
Quote from: Pat;1146478
I think trying to define conservatism via the left-right political axis is a bad idea. The axis encompasses numerous ideologies and specific policies. In my mind, conservatism is broader than that. ...And to answer my own question, a conservative is reluctant when it comes to radical changes of any kind, whether they're forward or back. So it is conservative to oppose reactionaries.

Makes sense. "Conservative" and "reactionary" are both difficult in that they're transitive adjectives; to be politically meaningful you have to know exactly what is being conserved, or reacted to.

(Likewise, it might seem that one fatal weakness of "progressivism" would be that it's equally vulnerable to the question, "What are you progressing to, exactly?", but most people appear tragically willing to accept the answer, "Something better!" at face value.)
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Pat

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« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2020, 08:02:48 PM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146596
(Likewise, it might seem that one fatal weakness of "progressivism" would be that it's equally vulnerable to the question, "What are you progressing to, exactly?", but most people appear tragically willing to accept the answer, "Something better!" at face value.)
Modern progressives talk about the "right side of history" a lot, which strikes me as a serious blindspot. They don't seem to realize that history isn't a straight arrow, progressing always toward something better. That it's full of backsliding, different paths that are hard to judge because they involve subtle trade offs, good things that happen in conjunction with bad, and sheer irrelevancies; and that we can never be sure that something was good or bad until decades or centuries later, and even then we might think back and change our minds. It's a sign of an ahistorical and ascientific worldview.

SHARK

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« Reply #20 on: August 26, 2020, 09:51:50 PM »
Greetings!

I sit at the right hand of Ghengis Khan.:D

I'm patriotic, and support our military, and law enforcement.

I love our national anthem, and our flag, and what they symbolize.

I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America.

I am a Christian, and support a broad social foundation of morality and virtue. I also love the King James Bible. I am in most all respects pro-morality, pro-marriage, pro-family, and pro-life. Criminals should fucking swing from a rope.

I generally support a small government, with limitations into economic influence and institutions.

I am pro-Capitalism.

I am passionately pro-gun, pro-2nd Amendment, and believe in being armed to the teeth.:D

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
"It is the Marine Corps that will strip away the fa├žade so easily confused with self. It is the Corps that will offer the pain needed to buy the truth. And at last, each will own the privilege of looking inside himself  to discover what truly resides there. Comfort is an illusion. A false security bred from familiar things and familiar ways. It narrows the mind. Weakens the body. And robs the soul of spirit and determination. Comfort is neither welcome nor tolerated here."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but is doing what you have to, in spite of the fear."
"Let Death and Fire Be Their Portion!"
"Delenda Est Parthia!"

Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #21 on: August 26, 2020, 10:19:16 PM »
Quote from: Pat;1146601
Modern progressives talk about the "right side of history" a lot, which strikes me as a serious blindspot.

Much of the lingo of modern protest progressivism, I think, derives from the Civil Rights era of the '60s, and the irony of the phrase "right side of history" is that it makes most sense when deployed in the context of a moral worldview that believes in eternal verities and absolutes to which mortal society can get closer, or fall back from. When Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," he was speaking out of a strong Christian sensibility (albeit one that he himself fell short of in other ways, but then we all do that) that justice was a real thing that human societies which genuinely sought the good could move closer to.

Ironically, however, that quote itself is a rhetorical paraphrase of part of an abolitionist sermon by minister Theodore Parker in 1853, and what Parker actually said was, "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." Most tellingly, Parker's original words lack the implication of inevitability that King's rephrase suggests; King's inadvertent genius was to mix the Christian surety of righteousness with the Marxist conviction of historical inevitability, which gave too many post-60s progressivists a fatal certainty that nothing done in the name of social justice could really be all that counterproductive as long as it kept the Vision alive.

This would be another key distinction between progressivism and conservatism as I understand them: in conservatism the ends alone can never justify the means, and it is possible to disagree upon means even while one agrees upon ends.  In modern progressivism, by contrast, any objection to means is always (or at least in the majority of my observation and experience) taken to represent a rejection of the ends; if you don't value a goal enough to consider "by any means necessary" a valid approach to realizing it, you don't really value that goal, goes the thinking.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Pat

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« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2020, 12:51:51 AM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146613
Much of the lingo of modern protest progressivism, I think, derives from the Civil Rights era of the '60s, and the irony of the phrase "right side of history" is that it makes most sense when deployed in the context of a moral worldview that believes in eternal verities and absolutes to which mortal society can get closer, or fall back from. When Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," he was speaking out of a strong Christian sensibility (albeit one that he himself fell short of in other ways, but then we all do that) that justice was a real thing that human societies which genuinely sought the good could move closer to.

Ironically, however, that quote itself is a rhetorical paraphrase of part of an abolitionist sermon by minister Theodore Parker in 1853, and what Parker actually said was, "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." Most tellingly, Parker's original words lack the implication of inevitability that King's rephrase suggests; King's inadvertent genius was to mix the Christian surety of righteousness with the Marxist conviction of historical inevitability, which gave too many post-60s progressivists a fatal certainty that nothing done in the name of social justice could really be all that counterproductive as long as it kept the Vision alive.
That parallels the March of Progress, a famous piece of art by Rudolph Zallinger showing apes becoming proto-humans, who in turn become modern humans. The idea was immensely imitable, with endless variations popping up; for instance, some showed humans starting as fish and then transforming through the other Linnean classes. The original and its imitators appear to be pro-evolution, because yes we did evolve from apes, and yes we're all cladistically fish, but the way it's presented is really an attempt to place evolution within a religious context. The ideas that there are lower and higher animals, that living creatures form a progression, and particularly that modern humanity is the end result of creation, which the left-right progression suggests, are rooted in medieval Christian concepts like the Great Chain of Being as much as they are in The Origin of Species. It's deceptive and anti-scientific, because evolution doesn't progress toward anything. More complexity does evolve, but older forms still thrive; we have tons of bacteria, insects, and crocodiles on the planet, after all, and they continue evolving. Humans are just another animal; we are neither the goal nor the apex of evolution, just a new leaf. We do have a unique combination of features, but that's because of a quirky mix of circumstances, not destiny. Teleology is wrong, and the line or arrow is simply a misleading metaphor; a radiation is better.

The idea of the "right side of history" is a similar throwback to the musty thinking of the middle ages. But I'd argue its immediate inspirations go back further than the Civil Rights era, because the idea of stages of history, inevitably progressing from one to the next, is a concept that comes from the early socialists. While Marx tried to distance himself from the early socialists by dismissing them as "utopian" and pretending to be scientific, he did adopt many of their ideas, including the stages of history. Since Marx still looms large in leftist thinking today, I'd guess his writings are at least as likely a direct source as MLK.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146613
This would be another key distinction between progressivism and conservatism as I understand them: in conservatism the ends alone can never justify the means, and it is possible to disagree upon means even while one agrees upon ends.  In modern progressivism, by contrast, any objection to means is always (or at least in the majority of my observation and experience) taken to represent a rejection of the ends; if you don't value a goal enough to consider "by any means necessary" a valid approach to realizing it, you don't really value that goal, goes the thinking.
There is a certain insistence in progressivism, that's absent in conservatism. Everything is an emergency and must be corrected now vs. things have their time. Anyone who opposes us in any way is the enemy vs. let it be. "Everything is political", and the intrusion of politics into every form of escapism vs. not talking about politics at the dinner table. We must have the power to fix everything vs. the state has limits, and is not always to be trusted. More generally, outrage vs. politeness.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2020, 01:13:52 AM by Pat »

David Johansen

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« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2020, 01:22:25 AM »
Quote from: SHARK;1146610
Criminals should fucking swing from a rope.

I am utterly opposed to giving criminals playground equipment in jail while schools have to raise funds to get it.
My new website is a mess http://www.uncouthsavage.com but actually should be working now!

Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2020, 02:31:34 AM »
Quote from: Pat;1146622
That parallels the March of Progress, a famous piece of art by Rudolph Zallinger showing apes becoming proto-humans, who in turn become modern humans. ...The original and its imitators appear to be pro-evolution, because yes we did evolve from apes, and yes we're all cladistically fish, but the way it's presented is really an attempt to place evolution within a religious context.

I've not heard that interpretation of that particular artwork before this; I'd be interested in seeing more writing on it if you know of any.  As a Catholic I'm not quite as dismissive of teleology in natural processes, of course, but I don't want the thread to drift sideways onto that topic so I'll leave it at that.

Quote
I'd argue its immediate inspirations go back further than the Civil Rights era, because the idea of stages of history, inevitably progressing from one to the next, is a concept that comes from the early socialists.

Agreed. The ideas predate the '60s, but I think most of the modern lingo comes from there. Which is another difference: conservatism is (ideally) always conscious of the past and of history, and willing to believe that much of it contains value worth saving, which (in theory) means conservatives are more likely to be conscious of the history of ideas and where meaning comes from. The great disadvantage of the progressivist fetishization for "Year Zero"-style social resets is that it robs them of this perspective.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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Pat

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« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2020, 02:44:06 AM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146626
I've not heard that interpretation of that particular artwork before this; I'd be interested in seeing more writing on it if you know of any.  As a Catholic I'm not quite as dismissive of teleology in natural processes, of course, but I don't want the thread to drift sideways onto that topic so I'll leave it at that.
Stephen Jay Gould covers it in Wonderful Life. It's been a while since I've read the book, so I don't know where specifically to point you. But the whole volume is definitely worth reading. While we have figured out some of the seemingly inexplicable lifeforms found in the Burgess Shale in the decades since, it's still one of the best books about science every published, and covers a remarkable period in the development of life, and in the development of our understanding of the development of life.

Edit: Found this site, which covers the basic idea, and references Gould's book (it's apparently discussed in the introduction):
https://sites.wustl.edu/prosper/on-the-origins-of-the-march-of-progress/
Don't agree with Blake's conclusions, though. He's celebrating the March of Progress because it's become iconic in pop culture, and apparently feels that's more important than being accurate. That's like saying that Charles R. Knight's art of tail-dragging, swamp-dwelling brontosaurs should be the standard image of dinosaurs.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2020, 03:06:54 AM by Pat »

Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2020, 03:44:07 AM »
Many thanks, I will see if I can find a copy.  (My to-read pile is already ridiculously high, unfortunately, but I can add it to my lists.)

I should interject here that when I talk about "progressivism" vs. "conservatism", I'm talking in terms of the ideals as I understand them and the stereotypical uber-examples of their practices.  Real people who have specific ideas about social policy, however they describe their political orientation, should not take these as personally meant descriptions; when it comes to politics in practice I much prefer drilling down to real specifics wherever possible, rather than getting hung up on arguing ideals.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

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HappyDaze

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« Reply #27 on: August 29, 2020, 06:28:32 PM »
Quote from: shuddemell;1146221
The following first principles are best discerned in the theoretical and practical politics of British and American conservatives.

1. TRANSCENDENT ORDER

2. SOCIAL CONTINUITY

3. PRESCRIPTION

4. PRUDENCE

5. VARIETY

6. IMPERFECTION

How would your definition differ?

I'm not much of a believer in #1. I do value enduring morals, but I don't accept that they are or should be unchanging. However, I strongly hold to #2, #3, & #4 which says that the best changes are those that are carefully considered and build upon what has come before rather than just throwing it all away to start anew. I don't really hold an opinion one way or another about #5 & #6, but I accept that they reflect reality and I'm not one to fight that just out of feelz.