January 11, 2016

Why Aristotle was the first conservative

John InglisRebel Blogger

In my last article, I explained how liberalism began with Plato, and how his basic premise -- that humans are fundamentally good -- led to the understanding that it was ignorance that made humans commit evil deeds.

Therefore, utopian liberals want rid the world of "ignorant" beliefs. (That is: beliefs they disagree with.)

So what did the first conservative, Aristotle, think?

Aristotle was taught by Plato, but like many students since, he turned from the Dark Side.

Unlike liberals, conservatives do not believe that human nature is fundamentally good. Aristotle in Ethics emphasized that a person must strive to do good, and by making the habit of performing good actions, you could form a good character.

Thomas Sowell put it this way: “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”

Having good character requires a person not to think properly, but to behave properly. Man becomes a good person by doing good things; similarly, a man becomes an evil man by doing evil things. For Aristotle and conservatives ever since, man has been considered, at best, amoral. However, we can become moral by being trained to be good and then responding in a moral way when faced with the opportunity to do so.

Society expends a tremendous amount of energy trying to form good people. A conservative society would focus on encouraging individuals to do good. Conservatives tend towards the encouragement of the civil society, while liberals focuse upon the political society. Civil society includes voluntary institutions that are not part of the government: Scouts, youth groups; Big Brothers, Big Sisters; and most importantly, the family. Other examples include 12-Step programs, churches, and community service organisations.

All of these things thrive when men are free to make moral choices. Members develop character by trying to live up to a higher moral standard. In the pursuit of higher ideals, members are edified, enjoy good company and ideally, are left better than they were before they arrived.

Nothing should be more satisfying to a parent, mentor or sponsor than helping to make another person better. It should certainly be more satisfying than thinking you are a good person just because, in the manner of liberals, you hate Ted Cruz.

As is the case with liberalism, the conservative emphasis on doing the right thing is displayed in attitudes about education and speech. A conservative is far more likely to argue that certain things should be taught at home rather than in the classroom. Sex-ed is a good example. When I was a liberal, the idea that parents could be trusted with the education of children on any topic horrified me. At the same time, however, I believed that I could raise perfect children because I held the right beliefs.

Free speech is another way conservatives emphasize actions rather than thoughts or mere words. A conservative believes in free speech, unless it is incitement to violence -- that is, violent action.

The emphasis on actions and ideals, as opposed to simply ideals, is why a liberal is so often a hypocrite and a conservative so rarely is. A hypocrite is a person who tells others to follow a moral standard but does not try to follow it themselves.

When Al Gore and his cronies and kleptocrats fly around on private jets to climate change conferences in Tahiti, they are being hypocrites.

When a Christian commits a sin she is not a hypocrite if she held herself to a standard, failed to live up to it, and then admits what she did was wrong and strives to improve. 

Liberals aren't bothered by saying one thing and doing another because actions are not as important to them. Conservatives are greatly bothered, however, because actions are important.

I imagine that there were people who read my last post on Plato, who identify as liberals, who said to themselves, "Hang on! I don't think that way." The fact is, very few people who identify as liberals (or Liberals) are in fact liberal. But one thing they do know is that hating conservatives is a big part of "liberal" identity.

The way a conservative thinks is far different from the way a liberal does. Conservatives are less concerned with how people think than liberals are. This is why liberals have a history of totalitarianism that conservatives do not have -- but

I will talk about some of the consequences of liberalism next time...


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commented 2016-01-14 17:20:46 -0500
You say some interesting things, but trying to tie in to Aristotle is quite the leap.

Why not just say “liberals are evil, I’m right, and we should all try to do good”?

Nothing you say about liberals suggests that you really understand them at all. Straw men through and through. You fail the ideological Turing test.
commented 2016-01-14 16:46:40 -0500
That was great John. I agree with you about the objective perspective being God’s own. That was interesting that you identified Pirsig as a liberal. I think you’re right, I just hadn’t considered that before. The thing that attracted me to the book was that it is very anti-academy. Pirsig mounts a withering attack on the modern university and pretty much blames all its faults on Aristotle. I know from personal experience that modern universities suck so I found a fellow traveller in Pirsig. I would love to see you review Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), as well as the sequel, “Lila: An Inquiry into Morals”. I noted a while back that a PhD program was offered by Liverpool University in Pirsig’s “Metaphysics of Quality” if that is of interest to you. I think you’ll find ZAMM interesting. Hope to see you write about it.

commented 2016-01-14 15:39:31 -0500
Yes, Pirsig sounds like a liberal to me, from what you say. Specifically a relativist. And that is, from the opposite perspective, what MacIntyre argues about current moral systems. His book by the way, is considered one of the most influential in modern ethics.

I should not comment too, too much on here but I will answer your question: The ultimate objective perspective is God’s, but even beyond that, we know that certain things have been proven to be objectively true. We know that beauty exists, based on the studies that prove humans more or less have the same preferences. We know that morality exists, there was a study that came out a number of years ago showing that across all cultures there are absolutes that are shared. One book that talks about this is William Gairdner’s “Book of Absolutes” which covers hundreds of “Absolutes” discovered by anthropologists and others who studies humans, which I have not yet read, but will. We know that there are differences between the sexes, there was a study a number of years ago showing that boys and girls behaved differently in the womb, before there could be societal influences.

All of these things suggest that while everyone has a subjective perspective, there is an objective perspective, and that humans are not a “blank slate” upon which you can impose whatever you like. I plan to write on this at some point, but this blank slate idea is why leftists have no issue with experimenting on our children in school.

I will try to not comment more than once on my own articles in the future, but if you readers have suggestions for topics you would like to have covered, I am open to doing so. I would give a conservative perspective on it, but conservatives are not like liberals, in that there are competing ideas on the right, so there will be times we disagree.
commented 2016-01-14 12:08:34 -0500
John, that is PRECISELY what Pirsig is getting at with his metaphysics of “Quality”. Namely, what is the definition of “Quality”? The only satisfactory answer, Pirsig labours to prove, is “whatever you like”. It’s all about the split between the classical scientific world of academic thought and the romantic artistic world. Pirsig argues that Aristotle used an allegorical “knife” to split the world into these two halves, and that the “cut” was entirely arbitrary and therefore determined only by Aristotle’s subjective preferences. Fascinating stuff. Would like to hear your thoughts.
commented 2016-01-14 09:50:15 -0500
Great article John. Thks for the link.

Ghost Tiger. Thks also, I’ll ad it to my to-read list.
commented 2016-01-12 17:25:41 -0500
I have not read the book you are talking about, although from your past posts it seems like a good book.

I came here to post a link to a book for people who want to learn more about the topic I am talking about: After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre. One of the issues he confronts is how the Enlightenment philosophies made morality merely a subjective opinion, every one can decide what is good. Not that men should be set on the path of character formation towards an end. In Thomism, a philosophy in the footsteps of Aristotle, the goal was the good, and the ultimate manifestation of goodness is God.

Here is the link: http://epistemh.pbworks.com/f/4.+Macintyre.pdf
commented 2016-01-12 09:00:44 -0500
Good one Arnold! I wonder if anyone here has read Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”? In it, Pirsig analyzes Aristotle’s philosophy at length. Anyone here read it?
commented 2016-01-12 07:52:53 -0500
Aristotle invented logic, that is why he was a conservative.;-)