The Corner

They Are Too Nietzcheans…

So says this guy (but color me unpersuaded):

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

Whoever said that a follower of Nietzsche could never be conservative understands neither Nietzsche nor conservatism. Nietzsche was the great opponent of the pretense to absolute truth, of “rationality” that claimed to span across all times and places, of so-called “objective” perspectives that span across historical situations. It constantly amazes me that conservatives don’t seem to realize that they agree with Nietzsche on all of these points (thought they certainly disagree with him on others). Conservatives, especially but not only secular conservatives, take their bearings from the arbitrary historical position in which they are born. Whenever you hear a conservative use the term “Judao-Christian tradition” to describe where their moral values come from, this is what they’re saying. Conservatives don’t (or at least shouldn’t, if they have any idea of what they’re talking about) claim that their societies are “simply best” or “purely rational,” but rather that there are good reasons for generally leaving historically conditioned social values as they are. Conservatives reject rationalistic political projects, such as the Marxist world state. Now, Nietzsche sought to replace the Judao-Christian tradition with his more brutal set of values, and this is where Nietzsche and conservatives part ways. But the underlying thought process, a preference for historical values over purely rational values, remains. Every true conservative agrees with Nietzsche’s fundamental tenets.

Leo Strauss agrees with Nietzsche on all of these points too. But things get more complicated when one realizes that Strauss wanted to leave room for universal, Platonic rationality in an elite group of philosophers, despite the fact that this effort was in tension with the kind of society he preferred. This causes a lot of confusion in the debate over whether or not Strauss is a conservative.

Hope this clarifies things.


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