Buckley defined Conservatism through the metaphor of a man standing on the train tracks of history, yelling ‘stop!’. Scruton defined Conservatism as the stewardship of the beautiful, in a particular way of life. The intuition expressed in both definitions is sound. For Conservatism to mean anything, then it must include the preservation or conservation of something important. Scruton is closer to that mark than Buckley is, because he’s closer to a fundamental principle than Buckley is.
Why does Socrates spend so much effort defining and describing the soul in so much detail in the Phaedrus? He tells us outright, in the dialogue. It is because no man can gain true knowledge from a speech, if the orator does not himself know how his speech is going to guide the soul to its first memory of the unified reality of beauty, found in the divine realm. Dialectic is the way to wisdom, and dialectic can only be achieved through speech.
I have recently come round to the opinion that the original 1967 Star Trek TV series is one of the best things ever produced in the 20th century. I have been going through the old original series one episode at a time, to refamiliarize myself with it and to recapture a portion of the experience of having watched it as a boy. When I was a boy, most of what was going on in the episode ran past me.
I decided to spend three of my vacation days on the London School of Philosophy’s “Summer School” conference, this week. The theme of the conference was “Philosophy: Past, Present, and Future”, and the talks focused heavily on the broad questions like the nature of philosophy, it’s role and purpose in society, it’s place in history, its relationship to art and literature, and the implications drawn from consideration of these questions, for the future.