Progressive Conservatism

I was reminded yesterday while discussing Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev in class for the Torrey Honors Institute of a phrase and idea first presented to me last June by Dr. John Mark Reynolds in preparation for our Torrey Europe trip to England. Yes, that was a very Torryful sentence. The phrase and idea is Progressive Conservatism.

Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Crudely and briefly summarized, the idea is that progress is good; since we life in a fallen world, we shouldn’t want things to remain in their current state. However, much of what we have is good already; we have to have a foundation upon which to build, or else we will end up going nowhere at all. Wryly put, you have to know where you’re coming from in order to know where you’re going. (Someone, probably Professor Klapauszak, said essentially this exact sentence in class yesterday.)

A prime example of this idea is set forth by Sir Walter Scott, who, incidentally, is an awesome person. To hear Dr. Reynolds tell it, everything you know about Scotland (yes, the country-ish-like-place thing in the UK) is a lie invented by Sir Walter Scott. He almost singlehandedly changed Scotland from a backwoods embarrassment of a place to a land with a rich culture and heritage. Kilts weren’t cool until Sir Walter Scott made them cool. Family tartans and crests didn’t really mean much (or exist at all, in many cases) until the 19th Century. Edinburgh was (and possibly still is) one of the intellectual capitals of the world, but only after Sir Walter Scott had reinvented Scotland was that possible. Sir Walter Scott took Scotland from what it was and made it better, fundamentally changing it in the process.

I know I haven’t done Dr. Reynolds’s idea justice, but hopefully I haven’t butchered it and you get the gist. Now, go read some Sir Walter Scott books! (Also, reading Fathers and Sons might not be a bad idea.)

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    • Will Sprague
    • April 2nd, 2011

    I probably ought to read some books by this… Scott… Because I am “Scottish” whatever that means…

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