Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Theorists for...who knows?

Inspired by
my colleagues in history, I’d like to announce the formation of Political Theorists for ...who knows? My manifesto follows:

As political theorists, we recognize, first, that the tradition of political thought comprises an extended conversation among those who offer, more or less tentatively, alternatives that are more or less commensurable. Some of us believe that the rule of the wise is, in principle, the best form of government, others that there is no such thing as wisdom, political or otherwise. Some of us regard democracy as the best form of government, others believe that democracy is the worst, except for all the others. Some of us hold to the primacy of the individual and his or her liberty, others to the primacy of the relationships in which all human beings are embedded.

As political theorists, we recognize, second, that practical political decisions in particular settings require knowledge that we, as political theorists, do not have and that, indeed, human beings may have only imperfectly. We recognize that different people may assess the various factors in a situation differently and that reasonable people might come to different conclusions, depending upon how they assess these factors.

As political theorists, we recognize that there is a disagreement about the role and influence of the individual in history. Some of us believe that individuals can, at least on occasion, liberate themselves from their circumstances. Others regard us all as essentially products of our time, place, and circumstances. As a result, we disagree over the role that individual character plays in political life.

As political theorists, we affirm the importance of discussion and deliberation, except for those who think that the point of theory is to change the world.

As political theorists, some of us would continue the conversation about our present circumstances and predicament indefinitely. Others would act now, if not sooner. All of us would reserve the right to change our minds at any moment.

As political theorists, in other words, we’re generally much more comfortable advising our fellows about what’s wrong with the current political alternatives than in unconditionally affirming the rightness and desirability of any one candidate.

Anybody want to sign on?

Discussions - 2 Comments

As Michael Oakeshott liked to remind people, the scholar is fundamentally a skeptical creature. That means he can't understand why all his colleagues have unrestrained faith in what certain partisans call progress.

I would more or less happily sign on to Joe's manifesto, except that I find it insufficiently ambivalent.

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