From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
Here is another case where conservatives could help themselves by boning up on their Eric Voegelin (who, to be sure, was contemptuous of anything called “conservatism,” “traditionalism,” “libertarianism,” because he was not an “ismatist.”) But he is a profound resource. And he has done us all a great service in the struggle against ideological thinking. I would point especially to “Reason: The Classic Experience.”
Conservatives are, in many ways, just as caught up with certain “modernist” false dichotomies as liberals, as this recent debate on NRO shows. Truth is neither a construct, nor a piece of information lying about waiting for people to pick up. It is something that we attempt to live. Without that dimension, which is inherently “religious,” the debate is mired in false philosophical categories.
But also from a purely pragmatic, electoral dimension, the only reason why the GOP in general, and conservatism in particular, has the impact in American society that it does (as opposed to the meagre if non-existence influence on the European continent, is the remnant of religious feeling in America that resists the totalitarian temptation. And totalitarianism shares the same intellectual roots with liberalism: an elitist skepticism regarding transcendent reality. This results in an immanentized view of political reality. Politics is still the psyche writ large, regardless of how much we try to pretend otherwise.
The political debate not only reflects a loss of philosophical acumen, but a lack of knowledge of theological traditions and the capability to reason theologically. And so the debate is inherently couched in an ignorance of the sources. It would be like me trying to intelligently compare Windows with Apple’s operating system.