When I went to a lecture by Robert Weininger called “Conservatism in a Nutshell”, I expected to be bored. Instead, I was enthralled for the entire hour and a half.
Weininger came across as a passionate and knowledgeable conservative who was careful to back up his opinions with facts. He seemed to take great delight in passionately tearing down the liberal ideals of John Stuart Mill and other theorists of liberalism.
Towards the end of the lecture, he got on the subject of postmodernism, and gave a fascinating account of how it is essentially an atavistic re-enactment of ancient religious beliefs. He said that, in essence, postmodernism asks us to believe that there is no reality beyond our perceptions of it, because without this we cannot explain why these perceptions are so different from person to person.
The argument seemed strikingly similar to that put forth in The Republic by Plato, which even though written nearly 2,400 years ago still seems far more convincing than the flimsy arguments postmodernists make today.
I was so enthralled by his speech that after it ended I stayed for an hour or two talking with Weininger about conservatism and related subjects such as democracy vs monarchy and atheism vs
Eugen Weininger was a German philosopher who wrote a book called “Sex and Character,” which was published in 1903. In the book, Weininger argued that men and women have different mental capacities and experience life differently.
Because of these differences, Weininger argued, it is impossible for men and women to truly love each other. Men hate women because they cannot understand them, and women hate men because they cannot be understood by them.
Weininger’s writings on sexual difference were quite influential at the beginning of the 20th century, especially among artists and intellectuals. Huysmans’ novel Against Nature (1884), Freud’s Dora case study (1905), and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27) were all influenced by Weininger’s theories about sexual difference.
In a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, author and scholar Camille Paglia talked about the importance of being conservative. She also emphasized the importance of being personally responsible for one’s actions.
Paglia defined conservatism as a “philosophy that favors established institutions and opposes rapid change in customs, social habits, and political processes.”
She criticized modern society for focusing too much on justice, instead of what she considers more important values: like beauty and social harmony.
Towards the end of her lecture, she explains that “conservatism is not about money – it’s about values.”
The first was, he quoted Edmund Burke as saying “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’m paraphrasing him, but he said something like that.
The second was, he said that conservatism is not about preserving the status quo, but rather conserving the values of our founding fathers. The third was, he said that conservatism is not a political party; it’s an intellectual movement.
This last point really resonated with me. I think of myself as a conservative in the political sense, but I have never considered myself a conservative in the intellectual sense. Conservatism as a political philosophy has always been too black and white for me.
The talk was hosted by the Antithesis Society, which was started by students at Memorial University. The society’s goal is to bring to campus speakers who might not otherwise come to Newfoundland. They are a student-run, non-profit organization.
The speech from the night before was given by conservative blogger Jonathan Kay, and the lecture afterward was from University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan Peterson. The room was full of both supporters and detractors of these men and their ideas.