Consider this list.
Types of Conservatism (from here)
- Cultural Conservatism.
- Social Conservatism.
- Religious Conservatism.
- Fiscal Conservatism.
What you won’t often see in any list is the expression “Philosophical Conservatism.” Why? Well, many of the people who educate us are opposed to the concept of Conservatism. They don’t like Conservatism, they don’t understand Conservatism, and they don’t want anyone to be Conservative. The last thing they want is any discussion of a coherent Conservative philosophy.
Consider some quotes.
Some are just shallow and silly.
Philosophical conservatism is defined as the belief that people are evil or selfish by nature, while philosophical liberalism is described as the belief that people are good or have great moral potential. (from here)
Fourth, there is what I would call philosophical (or also anthropological) conservatism, that in turn is rooted in a particular philosophical anthropology or perhaps social ontology. This stance implies a commitment to realizing a set of substantive values, irrespective of whether these values are already instantiated in the present. In other words, for philosophical conservatives, the primary question is not about what the past suggests, or how, or by which proven method, these values should be implemented. The question is of course what sets of values we are talking about in this context. I claim that philosophical conservatives are primarily invested in the importance of hierarchical relationships, or some more or less naturalized conception of inequality. They do not simply emphasize the particular and the potential importance of its preservation; they attribute differential value to particular sets of human beings, and they emphasize that certain social arrangements distributing power unequally are unalterable. (from here)
Some are just hateful.
The philosophical conservative is someone willing to pay the price of other people’s suffering for his principles. (from here)
This last quote is actually fairly popular, and it is the way too many see Conservatism. Such is the headache with letting politicians educate our children. Should we be surprised that our SOCIALIST school system does not encourage us to ponder what it means to be a Conservative?
Consider this observation.
Conservatives typically possess a pessimistic vision of human nature, drawing on the modern tradition, on Hobbes’s belief, that were it not for strong institutions, men would be at each others’ throats and would constantly view one another with deep suspicion. (Their emphasis is thus not on the ensuing hypothetical pacifying social contract but on the prevalence of fear in human society). Conservatives are highly skeptical of power and man’s desire to use it, for they believe that in time it corrupts even the most freedom loving wielders: hence, the potential accession to any position of supreme power over others, whether in the guise of a national or international chamber, is to be rejected as being just as dangerous a state as Hobbes’s vision of the anarchic state of nature. Conservatives thus applaud those institutions that check the propensity for the stronger or the megalomaniacal to command power: conservatives magnify the suspicion one may hold of one’s neighbor. (from here)
Do Conservatives possess a pessimistic vision of human nature? Yes. We realize that we are all imperfect and quite corruptible. The Christian Conservative takes it for granted that but for the grace of God we would all be going to hell. And yet because God loves us we all have infinite worth. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we each can do good works.
Are you a Social Conservative or a Fiscal Conservative? Why? What is the logic that drives you to be a Social or Fiscal Conservative? Have you ever asked yourself questions such as these questions?
- What is the purpose of government?
- What powers should the government have?
- Can the government provide justice? What sort of justice? How should the government provide justice?
- When is it moral to force our neighbors to pay taxes? What functions of government justify punishing people when they refuse to pay their taxes?
- When is it proper for government officials to transfer public funds to private charities? Is a private charity that is funded entirely by the government still a “private” charity?
- Is it moral for government officials to take money from some citizens and provide charity to other citizens? Can we trust the same government officials to redistribute the wealth and protect our property rights?
- What is a constitution? What purpose does a constitution serve? How should a constitution be interpreted?
- What is the role of the Declaration of Independence in our nation’s heritage?
- Are men corrupted by power? How do we prevent our leaders from becoming too powerful?
- What obligations does each citizen have to exercise control over the government?
- When do citizens have an obligation to rebel against the government?
Unless we consider such questions, and we have ready answers, how can we say we have a coherent Conservative philosophy? To be any kind of Conservative, we must first construct a coherent Conservative philosophy. Once we have done so, I think many Conservatives will realize that for our Conservatism to have any meaning, we must be Philosophical Conservatives, that is, we must be able to logically explain why we believe what we believe.