Saturday, July 17, 2004

OxBlog: "I see many parts of contemporary political conservatism as being in conflict with my philosophical conservatism. Two examples: first, as I think I mentioned, I'm pursuing an academic career. I find the disdain that many conservatives have for the academy ('liberal academia,' etc.) to be distasteful, unconservative, and counterproductive. I think it's distasteful and unconservative because philosophical conservatism, as I understand it, reveres learning; it holds that we can only understand our situation in the present through the study of the past; and it maintains that it is impermissibly hubristic for us to dismiss the wisdom embodied in tradition without a very compelling reason. But all of these things require learning, and the academy is the seat of learning. I find many conservatives' dismissal of the academy to be counterproductive because, if you keep talking about how academia is hopeless and a waste of time, then of course young conservatives will shy away from it! Intelligent and respectful criticism of specific thinkers, not dismissal of the entire academic enterprise, is the proper attitude of a philosophical conservative towards the academy. And the refusal of many political conservatives to take this philosophically conservative attitude greatly bothers me. The idea that scholarship is inherently political also bothers me. At Yale, I double-majored in philosophy and a program called ethics, politics, and economics. At Oxford, I'm finishing up my doctorate in politics with a topic that straddles the line between law and politics. In my seven years at these two universities, I've never had a professor whose political views affected his/her fairness. Frequently, even in classes on politics or law or history, I've had no idea what the professors' political views were. In my experience, most academics are scholars first and foremost -- that's "

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