Letter from the Publisher: Conservatism As Philosophy

Greetings, Esteemed Reader of The Princeton Tory —

You may think you hold a political magazine in your hands. You are wrong. The Princeton Tory is hardly so limited. Ah, you say, but this is Princeton’s premier journal of conservative thought—clearly, it must be political. Nonsense. Conservatism transcends political credo. To be conservative is not to check the box on all key issues on the Grand Old Party platform. Conservatism is a disposition, a culture, a philosophy.

In his classic essay “On Being Conservative,” twentieth century English philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote poetically: “To be conservative is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.” Indeed, there is something deeply rooted about conservatism, some firm connectedness to reality, some trait that is not reducible to the elections, policies, and sound bites of modern American politics.

In a sense, the conservative—the Tory, if you will—is a realist. He is a realist who knows that reality is not seen fully through the lenses of race, class, and gender. He looks at problems with his own eyes, questions popular narratives, and is attentive to important distinctions. The liberal often urges change — whether cultural, political, or even spiritual — in the name of progress; the conservative asks where this progress leads and why we would want to go there. The conservative is not, then, tethered strictly to politics; his outlook extends to the ends of culture and art, philosophy and faith, and yes, community and politics as well. The Princeton Tory presents you with conservative thought of this holistic sort.

You are not, therefore, reading a campus edition of the National Review. This is a publication for Princeton, by Princetonians, and primarily about Princeton or matters somehow pertinent to her. This is a publication for thinkers. It is for those who refuse to succumb to apathy and who aren’t content to adopt popular assumptions without first examining them. It is for those of us who care about Princeton and the nation for which she prepares us to serve.

No matter your worldview — your present political stances, cultural outlook, and moral values — we at the Tory hope that you will give our magazine a read. And, if you are jaded by liberal orthodoxy on campus, join us. If you consider yourself liberal, engage with us. The Princeton Tory is a forum for debate and discussion about things that matter; it will be all the richer with your company.

We want to elicit reaction. Whether you agree or disagree with what we publish, we want you to think about, to weigh, and to engage with, our arguments and ideas. So whatever your opinion, should you pen an astutely-argued Letter to the Editor, we will publish it. Email tory@princeton.edu or thorton@princeton.edu, and we will respond. You have my word on that.
With that, I leave you with this issue in the hope that you will both enjoy and be challenged by its contents.

TZ Horton is a junior from Dallas, TX, majoring in the Philosophy Department. He can be reached at thorton@princeton.edu

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3 thoughts on “Letter from the Publisher: Conservatism As Philosophy

  • April 6, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I have to say what you describe sounds pretty much like simply critical thinking and open-mindedness, both very valuable and desirable attributes. I would hardly label those as “conservative”. More worrisome I found your quote of Oakeshott. Under his premise, we would still be living in caves, and it is very contrary to the visionary spirit that has built America into the vibrant, progressive country it is today. We embrace what is possible, boldly face and conquer the unknown and, believe me, we go the distance. Very poor choice of illustration!

    • May 2, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      See Dr. Thomas Sowell’s ‘Conflict of Visions’ for a more accurate summation of constrained thought–conservatism, that is–that which made the America that you laud.

  • April 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you for your comment. I would strongly suggest that you read the whole of the Oakeshott essay such that you can see the full context. No, we would not be living in caves under his premise. I suspect you take issue not with Oakeshott, but with a straw man! Conservatism does not oppose innovation as Oakeshott makes clear in his essay. But again, I urge you to read from the man himself.

    For your convenience: http://faculty.rcc.edu/sellick/On%20Being%20Conservative.pdf

    Again, thank you for the comment!


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