Why Philosophy Matters (Special Human Perfectibility Edition)

Speaking of Mike Potemra (subject of my last post), Matthew Yglesias has a great rejoinder:

But of course this is the trouble with basing your political value system on things like authority and tradition. It’s always changing! William F Buckley’s determination to stand athwart history yelling stop led him to a robust defense of apartheid as a system of government for the American South. At times in different countries, authority and tradition has meant backing absolute monarchy or vicious dictatorships. Or maybe conservatism means women can’t vote. Eventually, you wind up defending the United Federation of Planets just like Captain Picard.

This is the problem with basing a political movement around a disposition, instead of a guiding philosophy. If conservatives don’t much care for “peace, tolerance, due process, [and] progress,” what do they stand for? “Skepticism about human perfectibility” doesn’t cut it–skepticism is all well and good, but it’s no foundation for anything more.


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