by Daniel McCarthy
Nearly 30 years before he shocked National Review by endorsing Barack Obama for president, senior editor Jeffery Hart announced a divorce of a different kind from the American right. With “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to a Modern American Conservatism”—published in The New Right Papers in 1982 and previewed in NR a few months earlier—Hart split with tradition and declared himself on the side of modernism in art, literature, and morals.
But, paradoxically, some of the complex aesthetic ideas that had stirred in the years between 1910 and 1914—‘hardness,’ ‘abstraction,’ ‘collage,’ ‘fragmentation,’ ‘dehumanization’—and the key themes of chaotic history, Dionysian energy, and the ‘destructive element,’ did help to provide the discourse and forms of the world to come.
The true philosopher recognizes that philosophical reflection consistently purged of the authority of the pre-reflective leads to total skepticism. In this moment of despair, hubristic reason … becomes impotent and utterly silent. It is only then that the philosopher can recognize, for the first time, the authority of that radiant world of pre-reflective common life in which he has his being and which had always been a guide prior to the philosophic act.
Daniel McCarthy is editor of The American Conservative. Reprinted with the gracious permission of The American Conservative.