The Corner

Re: Metrocons

Just a couple more notes on the parsing of conservatism. I did not mean to

imply that this is an illegitimate or improper activity. Among consenting

adults, in the privacy of their homes, I think it is quite all right. I am

just not much disposed to it myself. It’s not that I have anything against

intellectual rigor, or am incapable of it. For Goodness’ sake, I have just

published a book about higher mathematics! Intellectual rigor is fine; it’s

just that outside math and the natural sciences (and even inside them, to a

slight degree), it ought always to be taken with a grain of salt–”Humility”

brand salt for preference. Political science is not, after all, a science.

The ruthless application of intellectual rigor to matters metaphysical is

what got David Hume to the point where he found he had disproved the

existence not only of the material world, but even of his own thoughts. At

which point he stopped, turned and looked at what he had accomplished,

laughed, and wrote this: “This sceptical doubt … is a malady, which can

never be radically cur’d, but must return upon us every moment, however we

may chace it away … Carelessness and inattention alone can afford us any

remedy. For this reason I rely entirely upon them; and take it for granted,

whatever may be the reader’s opinion at this present moment, that an hour

hence he will be persuaded there is both an external and an internal

world…” I am a big fan of “carelessness and inattention.” I think the

answer to the question: What kind of conservative am I? is: I am an

Anglican Tory, with a deep aversion to theologizing, ideologizing, and

philosophical hairsplitting of all kinds. I believe that decent common

sense, together with (in the words of the great Fats Domino) “clean livin’

and good home cookin’,” will see you through life pretty safely. This is

why my great intellectual hero is Samuel Johnson. You could never make

an -ism out of Johnson’s apothegms. They are riddled with contradictions

and non sequiturs, as Macaulay pointed out in a brillinat (and mostly

sympathetic) essay. The broad outlook of Johnson’s mind, though, accords

exactly with my own; and as a model for human courage, Christian compassion,

decency and good sense, he has no equal. Same Orwell, whom I also

adore–not for his political philosophy, which was mostly wrong-headed, but

for his broad outlook and scrupulous honesty. Those are the models I attain

to. Burke? Kirk? Strauss? Rand? They are for someone else to have

opinions about. I’ll listen respectfully, but won’t have much to say.


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