The American Conservative, 6 October 2008

For me, the highlight of this issue was a piece by Claes G. Ryn, editor of Irving Babbitt in Our Time, The Representative Writings of Irving Babbitt, and the author of Will, Imagination and Reason: Irving Babbitt and the Problem of Reality.  Unfortunately Professor Ryn does not mention Babbitt’s name in this article, but he does give a strongly Babbittian analysis of the so-called “conservatism” that has entranced so many of America’s policy makers.  After rehearsing Babbitt’s argument that our Constitution can work only in a society where people are committed to simplicity, value tradition, and are accustomed to respecting limits, Ryn discusses the theories of Leo Strauss, whom he considers to be a sort of anti-Babbitt.  “According to Strauss,” Ryn writes, “no real philosopher gives credence to ‘the conventional’ or ‘the ancestral,’ to use his terms.  Respecting them represents the greatest of all intellectual sins, ‘historicism.’  Inherited ways are, he insisted, mere accidents of history.  Respect is owed to the ‘simply right,’ which is ahistorical and rational.”  It is this ahistorical, anti-traditional, intellectualistic creed that has inspired neoconservative thinkers who have argued in favor of the wars and other power grabs of the current administration in Washington.

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: