Re: definition of conservatism

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From: Robert S. Thau (
Date: Wed Dec 06 2000 - 08:59:28 PST

Dave Long writes:
> > A Conservative is a person foolish enough to believe in objective truth.
> > A Liberal is a person arrogant enough not to believe in objective truth.
> Now I'm confused. Is this "objective truth" idea held
> beyond Mr. Agre?

It isn't held *by* Prof. Agre. His actual views won't fit on a bumper
sticker, but they're far closer to the opposite; see, for instance, this

where he says, among other things, that:

  Conservatism operates by disparaging
  and destroying the capacity for rational thought among the majority
  of people, notwithstanding their efforts to educate themselves and
  insist on the equality of treatment that a rational society requires.
  So, for example, conservatives now insist that mathematics education
  return to the rote learning of algorithms, and that it be cleansed
  of every element of understanding of mathematical concepts. They
  likewise insist that history be turned back into the memorization
  of historical facts with no real study of the reasons for historical
  processes. Conservative publications and pundits try to popularize
  styles of speaking and thinking that are irrational and arbitrary.
  Of course, some people who regard themselves as conservatives --
  perhaps most of them -- are unaware of what conservatism really is;
  they represent themselves as followers of such deep philosophers as
  Ronald Reagan while remaining oblivious to the large-scale project
  of restoring the philosophy and social order of Edmund Burke. The
  "conservatism" that these people know is basically a public relations
  campaign aimed at persuading them to lay down their capacity for
  rational thought. We could pity them if they weren't so dangerous.

He isn't faulting conservatives for being "foolish enough to believe
in objective truth" --- he is faulting them because *he* believes in
objective truth, and he is sick of conservative rhetoric that ignores

And his response to arguments for other definitions would probably be
something like what I've quoted above: Sorry guys, you bought the
hype; your idea of what conservatism ought to be doesn't change the
objective truth of what the movement is, and what it advocates.

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