Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Optimism, Pessimism, Conservatism

It occurs to me that the temperamental difference I observed between Jonah Goldberg and John Derbyshire may reflect an interesting interplay of optimism and pessimism in the conservative mindset. Put very crudely (which is all that I am capable of at this hour), I see Jonah's conservatism as being affectively optimistic and cognitively pessimistic, which I think is a distinctively American mode of conservatism. For example, I think that the Founding Fathers, while intellectually fully aware of the limitations and frailties of human nature, were gut-level optimistic that these could be successfully managed by the proper governmental arrangement. John's pessimism seems more affective, though he can convince himself intellectually that we will somehow muddle through, if only through sheer orneriness ("We shall find out that our cherished beliefs about the Self are largely illusions, and we shall come to terms with that somehow -- but we'll protest every inch of the way there"). This feels more consistent with some elements of the British conservative tradition.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sir, have been bookmarked ;)

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto. :)

Maybe I should read him a little more closely when I'm over at the Corner, but I get a faint sense of elitism from Derbyshire. And since I have come to detest elitism in all its manifestations, I back off from reading anything that sets off my detectors.

Of course, I'm an optimistic Yank-type conservative through and through--which may have something to do with it.

1:19 PM  

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