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On Classical Conservativism

by Gil Sanders

I am a classical conservative. This is a view of the world that stands on the shoulders of intellectual giants like Socrates, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, and Suarez. Most importantly, I stand on Christ who is truth. He and the Apostles affirm total depravity, traditional views of sexuality (contra LGBTQ), modesty, limited government*, personal responsibility, and many other traditional virtues. Great church fathers like Justin Martry, Athanasius, Tertullian, and Polycarp all agree. The great traditions of Judaism, RCC, Orthodox, and Protestantism affirm it as well. Not only that, but we have Scholasticism, which is a system of thought that dominated philosophy for ages. It defends common sense and refutes secular thought. This general tradition remains defended by great minds like Pruss, Feser, Oderberg, Haldane, Kerr, Fine, and Klima to name just a few. Secularism is but a mere disastrous blip in the grand scheme of thought.Classical conservatism by contrast is built off of this great tradition of great minds and their powerful arguments that spanned across many ages. Essentialism, teleology, and natural law are essential components of this view that affects EVERYTHING else. Kingdoms built upon its wisdom flourished, but those that abandoned or rejected it came to a desolate end. Contra Scruton, Oakshott, and Burke, conservatism is not just a temperament based on experience, it is a lived ideology. Their anti-ideology and borderline anti-reason approach really frustrates me sometimes, despite the fact that I agree with them in many areas. Classical conservatism IS an ideology of sorts, based on experience and tradition. That doesn’t mean it was always perceived or known *as* an ideology because roughly its just common sense, but it sure can and should be extrapolated into one. What is classical conservatism then? First, it takes a realist view of theism, metaphysics, essences, final causes, perception, language, knowledge, science, and natural law. We take the substance view of equality: everyone is equal in value regardless of sex, race, and other contingencies. Second, it takes a fallen view of human nature. It’s not systems that ultimately cause corruption, it’s human nature itself. There’s no human solution to evil or “oppression,” there are only trade-offs. Religion becomes quite important as a result. Third, if our view could be summarized, it would be subsidiarity, solidarity, religion, and family, and patriotism. This is in contrast to the depraved abuses of liberty, equality, and fraternity in America today. Feser explains this well (link below). We’re also not radical individualists but hold to an organic understanding of the society in which the common good and virtue is the goal. Fourth, we believe that the government should be explicitly conservative and built upon natural law. We reject neutrality, Leftist notions of tolerance, and libertarianism. I could say a lot more, but I’ll stop here. Read Chad McIntosh’s paper and Feser for a fuller explanation

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