Monday, June 15, 2009



Why is conservative thought even needed in our universities? The Wall Street Journal, gives an excellent editorial in defense of conservative thought. Here is an exerpt:

That constellation (Conservative thought) begins to come into focus at the end of the 18th century with Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France." It draws on the conservative side of the liberal tradition, particularly Adam Smith and David Hume and includes Tocqueville's great writings on democracy and aristocracy and John Stuart Mill's classical liberalism. It gets new life in the years following World War II from Friedrich Hayek's seminal writings on liberty and limited government and Russell Kirk's reconstruction of traditionalist conservatism. And it is elevated by Michael Oakeshott's eloquent reflections on the pervasive tendency in modern politics to substitute abstract reason for experience and historical knowledge, and by Leo Strauss's deft explorations of the dependence of liberty on moral and intellectual virtue.

Without an introduction to the conservative tradition in America and the conservative dimensions of modern political philosophy, political science students are condemned to a substantially incomplete and seriously unbalanced knowledge of their subject. Courses on this tradition should be mandatory for students of politics; today they are not even an option at most American universities.

Of course, I'm having a hard time just getting my University to let me expose my students to William F. Buckley, much less Leo Strauss.


Tom said...

I can thank Dr. Cuzan for having us read Burke, Tocqueville, and Mill. I need to read Oakeshott. Just the premise of his work sounds intriguing.

E said...

I was a philosophy undergrad. The best thing I read was Hans Kung's DOES GOD EXIST? which covered the gamut of philosophical, theological, psychological and political thought -- Hegel, Freud, Pascal, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, everybody, and then reconciled it all: why a smart guy can and should believe in God. The final paper was the only grade: summarize the course from your perspective, in as many pages as needed. I spent 37 pages getting to the conclusion that God exists for anyone weak, stupid, or feeble enough to need him, or for lack of a better idea. Seven years later I came around to Kung's conclusion. That course was what a college course should be: go read the classics, then let's talk about it, then go reflect, then at the end of the semester, process and express yourself in words, and your conclusion is fine as long as your process reflects effort and thought.

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