Weiningers Lecture on Conservatism Notes

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1: Five Stages of Civilization

Weininger’s Lecture on Conservatism describes a five-stage process of civilization, whose outlines are visible in the cultures and societies of today.

The first stage is that of the “ephebe,” a youth, whose culture is by necessity tribal. The ephebe is more comfortable with social order than existential freedom; he fears chaos both within and without. The ephebe places his trust in strong authority figures, who will keep him safe from the dangers that surround him.

The second stage is that of the “citharist,” or artist-warrior. This society is young, but no longer fearful of its surroundings; it has developed a warrior caste to protect its interests. The citharist’s values are still driven by fear; he believes that strength and talent ensure victory, and seeks to prove himself in battle.

At this point, the two stages collide. The citharist begins to see his own kind as expendable; he may even take pride in his ability to kill his own countrymen for higher ideals. The ephebe sees this as unnecessary cruelty; he looks with suspicion upon the warrior caste and its values, which seem dangerous and unpredictable compared to his own.

The third

I was listening to this lecture by Jonathan Weininger on conservatism (link below). It is a good lecture and I highly recommend it. There are a lot of things that I will probably be thinking about for quite a while, but one that really stood out was the idea of the “furry.”

In the early 1800s, there was this movement called transcendentalism that started in New England. The people involved were into nature and wanted to interpret art in terms of nature. They wanted to bring art to everyone rather than just the wealthy elite, and would often hold massive events in which everyone would get together, put on some masks, and dance around in circles all night long. They said that what mattered about art was not its content but its form; it did not matter what you were doing, only how you were doing it.

Towards the end of his life, Weininger came up with this idea of “furry.” What he meant by furry is not exactly what furries mean by furry now. A furry is someone who identifies more strongly with an animal than with humans. Furry fandom today focuses on creating animal characters and putting them in situations; Weininger’s furry focused on experiencing life like an animal. In his view,

In the Weininger Lecture on Conservatism, Jonathan Bowden states that “the essence of conservatism is the rejection of ideology – a rejection of utopianism and its grounds in abstract, rationalist and materialist philosophy.”

He urges us to take the following counsel from T.S. Eliot:

“Not to believe in ideas but to believe in your own feelings”

and concludes that “conservatism begins with a foundation in your own experience.”

This is a good talk, with interesting takeaways. I’ve pulled out some key points below. But it’s worth watching the video for yourself.

I was asked to provide a safe space for the conservative voice on campus, I agreed because I believe in freedom of speech and thought. I expected to feel uncomfortable for an hour and then forget about it. But what I saw and heard was so disturbing that I will never forget it. The event was advertised as an opportunity for students to be exposed to conservative ideas, but what I witnessed was a display of blatant racism, ignorance, and hate.

The speaker, Peter Cohen, began his talk by saying that people are born gay and what they do with their lives is a lifestyle choice. He proceeded to mock transgender people by saying they have no idea what gender they belong to and that they don’t know who they are. When asked why he was against abortion he replied “I’m just not.” His stance on climate change was simply “I don’t believe in it.” He went on to say that women should not be allowed to vote because their brains are smaller than men’s. His final argument for conservatism was that liberals want everyone to think alike. He said liberals want everyone to agree with them so that they’ll stop thinking for themselves. When the student body president asked if there were any questions Cohen responded “No, this is my time now.”

Afterwards while walking

From the one-star reviews, you would think this book was for babies or idiots. “I bought this book because I’m interested in the topic and I wanted to support a fellow furry artist. I found this book to be a waste of my time and money.”

Other one-star reviews include:

“This isn’t worth any more of your time than it took to read my review.”

“Not bad but not great either. It’s full of useless information.”

“A waste of money. Not at all what I had in mind.”

“Should have been a free pamphlet.”

The reason these people don’t like the book is because they disagree with the author’s politics (he is a conservative), and therefore don’t think he should be writing about furry art at all. But if you are looking for insight into how artists can improve their skills, you will find it in this book. The author does not say that art is political, or that you shouldn’t draw or write about sexy furries, or that conservatives are better than liberals at drawing cartoons. He does say that drawing cartoons is hard work, and that anyone who wants to make their art look professional has to put in some serious hours on the job. He also says that his

The art which is the most truthful will be the most universal, and at the same time the most individual. It will not aim at making its subject intelligible, or even interesting to the greatest number of people; but it will make its subject beautiful. The more perfect a work of art is, the more imperfect it will be as a piece of instruction.

The highest art is always the most individual, and therefore always destructive in its effects on others. It cannot be taught, but only inspired. If you wish to study it, you must allow yourself to be taught by it.

For this reason Art can never become popular. The days when Michelangelo could say that his statue of David was designed to be looked at from a distance are gone forever. But they have been succeeded by days when the highest art can only be seen through a microscope: like a specimen in a bottle of formaldehyde.

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