What is conservativism? (Shelter and exposure)
I mostly want to talk about the idea of a return to the original /scene/. We know that conservativism involves a return, usually from a flight outwards -- a return home. But what would it mean to return to an original /scene/?
There are a few questions that I like to pose to ... liberals, let's say. Multiculturalism, sure, but could you really conceive of any other ideal of governance besides democracy? Can you really conceive of any other fundamental right besides those outlined in the bill of rights? I would sometimes push this further, and ask -- to those that understand it -- whether there could be any other possible other philosophy of life than Christianity.
But I am not really a conservative, I am an rhetorical conservative, I say -- I don't celebrate my limitations. The story I am telling is one of a reaching out and then a returning: one reaches out to other cultures and other ways of life, and then, faced with the above questions, returns in a moment of "sobriety", which all too often results in a kind of self-validation. The conclusion is either that democracy, human rights, and Christianity is the most thoughtful and interesting philosophy, or that the intelligent people in other cultures are basically saying the same thing. (See, for example, South Park's "Super Best Friends" episode.) So conservative speaks basically about a "return".
But I'm not really a conservative, since ... since I don't seek validation or celebration. I used to call this, "walking backwards", or walking in the opposite direction that one speaks in. I'm quite familiar, of course, with these conservative arguments, I can recite them, but I am doing so only in order to find a weakness in them perhaps, or in order to reach their most radical implications.
There are many ways to think about this, one of which may involve the /descent/ that is necessary for all Christianity. The reason why the missionary is so important is that one descends from theological concept towards those who do not understand/accept them. Here, it's not so much that theology is a theoretical guide for missionary work, but rather, that the missionary work is a test of those concepts. The first thing that the missionary has to wonder is whether religion (rather than food, clothing, shelter, arms, etc.) can help them at all, whether it can help the world at all. It's basically a test of faith, but not in the sense of temptation, rather in the sense of one's own self-worth -- ie, one is no longer so sure that religion is even relevant. The experience of the missionary is probably that, in hoping to teach others, one finds that one needs religion most, not in order to "give the strength" to teach, but rather that one finds oneself turning increasingly towards more pragmatic measures (such as good works). Here, then, we can conceive of doctrine as undergoing a transformation -- rather than being merely prescriptive, it comes at the moment of an original scene, a scene where faith is still yet to come.
We should speak, then, of the difference between a /home/ and an /original scene/, as the difference between the conservative and what I call here the "rhetorically conservative", myself (and many others, of course). The conservatives seek only a home, where they can find community, celebration, and validation. But the philosopher seeks -- a historical truth, let's say -- the /scene/ of history, beyond merely the ideas of history, as if ideas arose ex nihilo. The difference is extraordinarily important -- while the conservative assumes a shelter or a home, while he assumes the holism of the idea, the ... rhetorically conservative is interested, as above, in that moment of exposure. The latter gives up the shelter of the idea in order to think about the moment of historical truth.
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