Monday, December 18, 2006

Humility, Frailty, and Strength

Here's an article describing the history of liberal and conservative thought in academia and think-tanks. I assume the article lacks falsehoods, but do not know enough to claim the article is "accurate" since it might lack a sufficiently broad perspective.

In any case, one of its observations made me think about something I had not considered. While discussing a book by Andrew Sullivan, the article's author writes:
Here, fundamentalism violates the central conservative tenet, the admission of universal human frailty, and betrays the Reagan-Goldwater heritage, Sullivan says. In the second half of his book, he outlines a better conservatism, taking the humility of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne and the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott's "radical acceptance of what we cannot know for sure" as the starting point of responsible politics.
I typically think of both liberals and conservatives by comparing them to libertarian philosophy. It's not that I agree with American libertarianism, but as an educator I easily focus on the issues of personal responsibility, efficiency in helpfulness, accountability, and safety.

But now I ponder in what ways liberals and conservatives consider people as frail or having fortitude? As expert decision-makers or humble searchers after wisdom?

How do these latter questions relate to the fundamental axiomatic differences between the general liberal and conservative world-views: are they part of the axiomatic distinctions or corollaries?