Conservative vs Liberal

Liberal-Conservative_KOnce, in a discussion at work about legal theory, I defended a position that was later branded “conservative” by my colleagues.   I was left scratching my head (but I merely tried to rationally justify the defended thesis …).   I began to notice, from then on, how relative and biased is the classification that makes something “conservative” or “liberal”.

Generally, when someone is called conservative, they want it to be given the pejorative connotation of a reactionary and outdated person who resists the “new times” and the “new thinking”.   On the other hand, the liberal is someone “modern” who upsets taboos for the sake of the progress of humanity.

I don’t know if this has to do with the 60s, Woodstock and the hippie movement, whose preachers proclaimed “It’s forbidden to forbid” and advocated a complete turnaround in the customs and values of society.   It’s certain that we are harvesting the fruits of this mindset. The modern world is a frightful, violent, individualistic and hedonistic place.

But I don’t intend to say here like a friend who claims to have been born in the wrong period (according to him, 200 years late), or talk like certain nostalgic grannies (“This world is upside down!   In my time it was good!).   Without a shadow of a doubt the world has evolved in many ways, as in the progress of the sciences and technology, in the almost universal recognition of human rights etc.   But one need not reject the past, or ancient traditions and values, for the simple fact of being “old” and reflecting a “conservative” mentality.

We must indeed welcome rationally what is traditional , improving it with the achievements of modern times through the filter of truth and reason.

Étienne Gilson says that “There is an ethical problem at the root of our philosophical difficulties. We humans are very inclined to search for the truth, but reluctant to accept it.   We do not like it that rational evidence has us in a corner, and even when the truth is there, in its impersonal and imperious objectivity, our greatest difficulty remains standing – for me, submitting myself to it, in spite of it not being exclusively mine …   The greatest philosophers are those who do not waver in the presence of truth, but welcome it with these simple words, ‘Yes, amen'” (Philosophy in the Middle Ages, São Paulo.   Martins Fontes, 1998).

It is not, therefore, about being “conservative” or “liberal”.   We should be philosophers, in the full sense of the word, that is, friends of wisdom, and therefore of truth, even if it has been revealed by medieval people or the nostalgic grannies.

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