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bernard bell

Despite a lip service to the importance of creative thinking and moral discrimination and to the necessity of a critical estimate of current patterns of behavior, those who direct the universities care for none of these things. Their chief aim is to turn out graduates who can fit comfortably, if possible eruditely, into the current pattern of living, ask no basic questions, experience no heartbreak—machine tenders, thing makers, thing users. Otherwise a university might become a breeding place of rebels, a sender forth of graduates who, unadjusted and unadjustable, would try to turn the world upside down. How tragic if young men and women should be compelled to make a choice between honor and comfort! How much easier, how much more kind, how much wiser for everybody if the universities stick to their undeniably successful knitting.—Bernard Iddings Bell, Crisis in Education, 158.

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism (Visit our Bookstore to find books by/about these men).

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

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3 replies to this post
  1. From the second century forward (if not before), the Catholic Church embraced the liberal arts. Then, ca. 1900, everything changed. How can we claim to be an educated people when most folks don't have a clue about the Greats who came before us. Democratic education has been nothing but bunk–a scam, frankly.

  2. Brad,

    You know I'm no cranky reactionary, hardly a modern conservative, and in no way imaginative. But you're absolutely right here. As you know, I have a great love for all things rebellious, subversive, and the like (this includes most especially the tradition of the yurodivi, the "fools for Christ" of Russia, and Walt Whitman, one of your heroes), perhaps simply because they expose our unknown, unconscious festering spiritual wounds.

    Let us take Nietzsche, a man whose works, however flawed, I love very much. We forget so easily, because we are inundated by dull-witted neo-atheists whom Nietzsche would disown if not spit upon, that he was a trained philologist and knew his classical literature quite well. He could wage war with the greats (Plato, Socrates, Christ, Saint Paul) because he knew their work and deemed them worthy adversaries. In all of his work, there was a great love for the tradition he seemingly so reviled. Would that we could create such a love/hate relationship in our students. Today we are all too lukewarm. Or, perhaps even more frighteningly, in our hot/cold love/hate relationships with thinkers such as Nietzsche, we don't really understand what we love/hate because we are so cut off from their sources. We can't really get our heads around their objections because our "conservatism" is "consumerism;" i.e., we consume, digest, and then expel amongst the masses our a priori, pre-digested (from other sources) understandings of most things social, literary, political. In others words, we haven't always thought long and hard about what we believe and whence it has come–at least not like Nietzsche had (for good and for ill).

    Goodness, for a class I'm teaching, I just had the pleasure of rereading Heidegger's _Being and Time_ (for the 20+ time). What I encountered in Heidegger this time was Aristotle and Augustine's presence permeating page after page. No doubt I noticed this because I've worked at Hillsdale for the past 8 years, so these things are always on my mind–if for no other reason than to irritate students by disrupting their nice, neat Western narratives. This reading experience was truly remarkable–and I've always known about Heidegger's relationship with Aristotle via Brentano (and from reading multiple times Heidegger's _Introduction to Metaphysics) and his relationship with Augustine via his scholastic training and his Catholic education. In other words, because I've been surrounded by all things Aristotle and Augustine at Hillsdale, steeped in this particular Western narrative, I got a great read on Heidegger's metaphysics and some of his ideas on Dasein and being-with-others. It takes a sustained understanding of the West, if one is going to understand the truly great thinkers of those who are considered "anti-western." Slogans just ain't going to do it–at least not for those who love a deep, rich Western tradition.

    In short, even in these thinkers we take to be "anti-Western" (though I would often reject this descriptor), they are steeped in the West. They have a love for it. They owe the Western tradition everything. In fact, though this is a much longer post, when they slip up in their critique of the West, they show themselves to be unconscious slaves of the very Western traditions they're trying to undo.

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