Monday, December 03, 2012

Evolutionary Conservatism


I approach philosophy and politics as both evolutionary and religious, hoping that it can lead to the recovery of both.

We require a proper balance between order and evolution. If we are closed to evolution we can become stagnant, if we are closed to order we can become chaotic. We need a balance of order and evolution, and this is the basis for evolutionary conservatism.

We can affirm the Enlightenment, unlike old conservatism, as helping to balance the tension between evolution and order, by making evolution more practical and order more theoretical.

The destruction of reason and the denial of objective standards of right and wrong by the moderns suggests far more freedom than human nature and natural law allow. We cannot legitimately be morally relative as long as we are alive. As long as we are alive we are alive with a human nature that affirms natural law derived from our bio-social human nature, and from nature itself.

I think the revival of human nature and natural law by sociobiology is superior to the classical natural rights promoted by Leo Strauss, and it supersedes or reforms Christian natural law. In the theological materialism of the Evolutionary Christian Church natural law includes our evolution to Godhood, so it can affirm the rational science inherent in classical natural law as aiding in our evolution to Godhood. Natural law in evolutionary conservatism brings a conservatism grounded in the transcendent order of evolution to Godhood, which counters both the stagnation of traditional conservatism and the nihilism of modern thinking.

Natural rights suggest that all men are born with the desire to survive and reproduce successfully but natural rights do not guarantee results, since evolution cannot always guarantee results. This suggest that it is best, or most just, for us to live in a variety of small states, or ethnostates, protected with a light federalism, where we can evolve according to our own needs, which are not identical. Ideally, light federalism can provide a guarantee of cooperative competition.  Imperialism, or one-race supremacy, never lasts long and always breaks down into small states. Small states and light federalism suggest the prudence and moderation of conservatism.

Did Strauss have a bias against traditional conservatism (Burke) because he feared the rise of a future volkish German-type revolution and he therefore emphasized natural rights over (volkish) conservatism? If he did have such a bias it is a bias that a great philosopher should not have had, even if we sympathize with him. It is a bias that probably led to the marauding neoconservatives trampling over the traditions of other nations.

The tension that Strauss and Eric Voegelin worried about between the community and the philosopher, between the divine and the city, happens more when the philosopher thinks he is beyond the community or freer than he actually is. We can search for truth as much as Socrates wanted us to, but we remain attached to life, instincts, and human nature, and nature itself, and even great philosophers should not overlook this natural foundation.

I agree with Voegelin that philosophers and theologians engage in much the same enterprise, revelation is not unlike hypothesis. Both Godhood and the Spirit-Will which activates material life, before life is shaped by evolution, could be seen as revelation-hypothesis, which science may one day affirm.  I see life as a religious drama where the goal is our evolution to Godhood, which involves human consciousness in ways that effect philosophy and politics. The two realms can be reconnected because politics does have an eschatological dimension when we are evolving to Godhood. But this does not lead to a utopian heaven on earth.

The need for order is based on the needs of evolution, since we have a very long way to evolve. This suggests evolution within the forces of conservatism. Anglo-American conservatism had a balance between evolution and revolution perhaps because it was developed mainly by classically educated men who knew  old civilizations. Revolutionaries often deny the natural law inherent in human nature and traditions.

We are “in-between” the beast and Godhood so we cannot claim to be divine. This should give us a more humble balance between moral certitude and moral uncertainty as we evolve. This puts conservative limits on the divine path of evolutionary politics and religion.

(A response to “Strauss, Voegelin, and Burke: A Tale of Three Conservatives” by Robert Kraynak in "Modern Age", Fall 2011)

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