Why do conservatives think that virtue and morality should be identified with their political agenda and what view of morality do they profess?
The conservative Speaker of the House of Representatives, embracing family values, suggested that the children of welfare mothers be taken away from the only families they have known and be placed in orphanages. This sounded like a contradiction of family values to liberals, but not to conservatives. Why?
Conservatives are largely against abortion, saying that they want to save the lives of unborn fetuses. The United States has an extremely high infant-mortality rate, largely due to the lack of adequate prenatal care for low-income mothers. Yet conservatives are not in favor of government programs providing such prenatal care and have voted to eliminate existing programs that have succeeded in lowering the infant mortality rate. Liberals find this illogical. Conservatives see no contradiction. Why?
Liberals also find it illogical that right-to-life advocates are mostly in favor of capital punishment. This seems natural to conservatives. Why?
Conservatives are opposed to welfare and to government funds for the needy but are in favor of government funds going to victims of floods, fires, and earthquakes who are in need. Why isn't this contradictory?
I'll reply to just a couple: "Conservatives are opposed to welfare and to government funds for the needy but are in favor of government funds going to victims of floods, fires, and earthquakes who are in need. Why isn't this contradictory?"
Probably because conservatives are NOT opposed to welfare and to government funds for the needy. "For the needy" being the part that you gloss over, taking the typical liberal that anyone that chooses not to work or doesn't work enough to be comfortably middle class is "needy".
Or "Liberals also find it illogical that right-to-life advocates are mostly in favor of capital punishment. This seems natural to conservatives. Why?"
Probably because liberals cannot distinguish any difference between an infant innocent of any wrongdoing and a serial murderer.
You might understand better if you told the truth about conservative views rather than spinning it into something really stupid sounding. Like using "right to life" to discuss capital punishment when the term is used politically and morally simply to label anti-abortion groups.
You do know your belief that "taking the typical liberal that anyone that chooses not to work or doesn't work enough to be comfortably middle class is "needy"." is a figment of your over active imagination.
So right-to-life to conservatives means only unborn life.
There is no spin involved when those that oppose abortion base their argument on ANY human beings life being scared. And ANY means unborn fetuses AND murdering criminals. Granted, to many anti-choice believers the only lives that count are those who aren't alive yet.
"You do know your belief that "taking the typical liberal that anyone that chooses not to work or doesn't work enough to be comfortably middle class is "needy"." is a figment of your over active imagination."
Of course it is. That's why half the nation does not contribute to the needs of the nation, why we have lifelong welfare recipients, why there are welfare mothers, why there is so much fraud in disability claims. Because it's all imaginary.
"So right-to-life to conservatives means only unborn life."
Partially. What it actually means is "the political stance that all abortion is wrong (except for the instances I specify). Which I'm sure you know.
"And ANY means unborn fetuses AND murdering criminals."
Of course it does...as long as it is YOU making the definition rather than the people that apply it to themselves. So you question why they don't use your definition, while refusing to accept the obvious answer.
"Liberals also find it illogical that right-to-life advocates are mostly in favor of capital punishment. This seems natural to conservatives. Why?"
How can liberals favor the murder of millions of innocent babies yet deny that society may kill a serial killer to protect itself? How do they resolve that dichotomy?
I'm not sure exactly which conservative you're referring to. Everything you've just described doesn't bear any resemblance to me, yet, I'm a conservative. It may be that you're just listening to the wrong conservatives.
Abortion and capital punishment are totally separate issues with quite a few religious and philosophical differences. I prefer to argue on the basis of the issues themselves and not political affiliation. I don't just siphon my deepest moral convictions out of some group-think ideology. It comes from lots of personal mistakes and life experience.
If you want to talk about these issues, let's talk about the issues instead of playing the "who's more virtuous" game.
I didn't include the full list in the article I read and he didn't include a total set of examples. That is what each of those presented were - examples of issues where liberals and those who call themselves conservatives.
But, before going any further, please explain what being conservative means to you so that I know who I am talking to. Before you ask, conservative to me means those who believe in Russell Kirk's "10 Principals of Conservatism." Most people who call themselves "conservative" are really minimal state liberals (libertarians fit in this category to give you an idea).
I suppose a minimal state liberal is a pretty good description of my leaning. Every political quiz I've ever taken has fallen somewhere under the libertarian spectrum (socially liberal, fiscally conservative). Due to the radical nature of political discourse these days (Neo-Marxist/PC authoritarianism), arguing on issues almost always displaces me somewhere on the conservative side of the conversation anyway.
I just peeked at a summary of Kirk's principles of conservatism. I agree with much of it. Outside of that, I would say my inclination to view the world through a conservative lens comes from my fundamental belief in personal responsibility. This isn't so much a political stance as it is a philosophical one. I've found it to be much more useful to get along in the world if I assume that I am responsible for the burden of existence itself, no matter the circumstances.
A lot of what I thought I saw in your OP seemed propagandistic. There's this conservative/republican archetype that people think of when talking superficially about politics. This greedy, non-compassionate, hypocritical trickster who hides under everyone's bed like a boogie man. Sometimes that avatar exists as you mentioned with the SOTH. Those type of people do not represent me or my best interests.
As I said, I like to dig into the issues more than some a priori set of principles. You might be surprised at what I have to say about things like abortion and capital punishment.
+1 Well said, and very close to what I find correct in conservatism. The philosophical concept that we are responsible for ourselves rather than allow faceless bureaucrats to carry that burden is primary.
I think when you take a deep dive into Kirk's 10 Principals, based on you being socially conscious and fiscally conservative, which is me as well you will find it somewhat objectionable ... assuming you believe in individual liberty.
Both types of liberals accept the idea of egalitarianism and meliorism. Conservatives specifically oppose that idea. (Don't be taken by the argument that egalitarianism means everybody gets the same thing, it isn't)
Both types of liberals reject the idea that for society to work well, it must naturally be stratified into classes, i.e. "For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. " (Do you agree with that or not? If you do, you might be a true Burkian, Kirk, Buckley-type conservative. If not, you are probably some type of liberal.)
Well damn! I don't know about Jessie, but...
""For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. "
Unless you deny the reality of human nature, I don't see how anyone could disagree with that.
I also think your "...Burkian, Kirk, Buckley-type ..." descriptors are just euphemisms for "realist." So if a Conservative's view of society is that of a realist, what descriptor describes a Liberal's view?
I see you referred once more to Kirk, so for this point I will too:
"Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host."
I am struggling to hold on to my Purple, but all this "definitions" talk is agitating my Red pigmentation.
"For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. "
@ My Esoteric, I do agree with that if we're talking about equality of opportunity (Equality of outcome is a non-starter. Even liberals should oppose that). And if by diversity you mean that not everyone has the same strengths, wisdom, background, creativity, discipline, wealth, education, fitness, IQ or skills - versus only race, gender, and ethnicity.
I don't believe we consciously stratify our society this way. It's just how the pieces fall when individuals are free to choose of their own accord. Freedom is not merely a byproduct of a forcibly diversified nation. True freedom begets diversity.
Once again I have to thank you for prompting me to read something I hadn't promisem. I was unfamiliar with Russel Kirk's "10 Principles of Conservatism."
However, although I agree with the "outlines" of his principles, I think using them as a definition of Conservative thought is too restrictive. Sort of like believing in the principles of Ayn Rand's writings, but also believing they are symbolic - not literal.
I think your personal perception of a Conservative should be. either more flexible, or your label should be more specific.
Even noting that I am not a "true" Conservative, I wouldn't agree with your generalities either. As most of your OP's responses indicated they didn't.
For instance; Your first statement: "Why do conservatives think that virtue and morality should be identified with their political agenda..." Why would you think that is only a Conservative thought?
Politics, (as a concept, not the negative view of "Washington" politics), is what determines our nation's direction. So why wouldn't every persuasion's, (Conservative, Liberal, Independent), concepts of virtue and morality be associated with their political agenda?
My pleasure -
"Why do conservatives think that virtue and morality should be identified with their political agenda..." Why would you think that is only a Conservative thought?" -
I don't actually think that, but the point the author was making was that so-called conservatives have attempted to usurp it for themselves while at the same time denying it to liberals; that is what their rhetoric says to me.
Obviously, liberals and conservatives both believe in family values, moral, and ethical behavior. Conservatives clearly wear it on their sleeves which make them very vulnerable to being called hypocrites with their actions don't match their words.
"Obviously, liberals and conservatives both believe in family values, moral, and ethical behavior."
Would you agree that both sides do this...only when they get to define those values, morals and ethics? And that they are often different?
It gets even stickier when one side attempts to use one of those values as a weapon against the other. A good example of that is the current gun issue. Anyone who doesn't support the position of gun control is automatically lumped into the category of "people with NO family values, morals, and ethical behavior"
And if they don't support people's constitutional rights they are "people with NO family values, morals, and ethical behavior"
All depends on who gets to define those "family values, morals and ethical behavior", doesn't it? Personally I find the abortion one the most comical: if you support murdering innocent babies you have no morals and if you don't support a woman deciding the fate of her own body you have no morals. 320 million scumbags without morals!
Actually, nobody proposes to murder "innocent babies". Since fetuses are not babies, other than in your own mind, and the fetus, up until a certain point, can't become a baby outside the mother's body, YOU don't have the right to tell that mother what to do with her body. Otherwise, if you think you do have that right, then you just made her a slave to your personal sense of morality.
I actually agree with you...but that is NOT what the far right says. They define a zygote as a baby, and under that definition it is certainly murder (ethically if not legally) to destroy it - anyone that does so, or condones such murder, is a murderer.
The point is that whoever makes the definitions also gets to make the definitions of morality. And that those definitions are different for liberals and conservatives.
I more or less agree with you other than to say it is much more complex than that with a myriad of stakeholders, not the least of which is the woman carrying the fetus and her natural rights.
Of course it is more complex than that! Just as killing a serial murderer is more complex than "never take a life". Just as it is more complex than just the rights of the mother. I've always questioned, for instance, that the results of incest or rape are OK to murder as if the sins of the father are transmitted to the child that would one day exist and I've questioned the rights of the father that the pro-choice won't even discuss!
But that does not even begin to change (or excuse) the demand that only one side of the story is right, that only your definition is valid, that only your own morals are right for yours are universal. Nonsense! Not a single one of that list of morals that you declare to be universal is; ALL of then have varied enormously in time and space and NONE of them are even black and white!
It's hard to not follow the conversation from abortion to morality to religious values. If we're going to presuppose that religious values are the foundation from which we derive moral value then we have to be clear about a few things because sometimes the conversation ends up in a place where constitutional values seem to contradict religious moral values.
There's no way for people over 2000 years ago to have ever anticipated contraceptives or intentional termination of embryos on a mass scale. As a quasi-Christian, I do value life in quite a universal way, however, I cannot assign arbitrary meaning to something so easily.
Most of the time when we think of people in this world as being divinely sovereign, we don't think about people who haven't been born yet. At which stage of embryonic or fetal development does a soul inhabit a person? If you look at a timeline of fetal development, it's not really clear at which point the fetus should be endowed with "value" beyond what value it already had to begin with.
If you take a rock and set it out on the sidewalk, no one's going to pay attention to it. If you put googly eyes on it and maybe some pipe cleaner legs, its going to spring to life. It will automatically be attributed more value from a passerby than it had before. People would be less inclined to simply kick it out of the way.
We know that a baby seems a bit conscious before they're born as they respond to touch and sound and kick around in the womb. This is a lifelike activity that people tend to regard with some humanity. At this latter phase of fetal development, we rarely see abortions if ever.
Most abortions take place in the phase where an embryo is just that. It hasn't even developed a very human-like form yet. It easier to anthropomorphize something if it....
(a) has the basic features of a person
(b) moves around as if it possessed free will
(c) has the potential to be something greater
Let's take a look at (c).
If we're speaking strictly in terms of "potentiality" then we may as well regard every sperm cell or egg as having the "potential" to be the next jane or john doe. There is no practical way of cushioning every single egg and sperm cell from destruction.
So what do we do?
I know for sure that there are circumstances in the world that do merit early term abortions. However, I oppose late-term abortions simply because I understand the traumatic psychological repercussions of such a grotesque procedure - not only for the patient but doctors and society as a whole.
I also strongly support Planned Parenthood because they provide a health service to people outside the purview of birth control and abortion referrals. I live right down the street from a PP and I see random church folk protesting EVERY DAY. These type of zealots fail to realize that PP doesn't actually do abortions. More often than not its PLANNED parenthood, not quitting parenthood. But its easier to demonize this organization as something that forthrightly opposes human value.
Let's not forget that it was actually the birth control pill that changed women's rights forever in this country and not some political movement in the 1950's. Now women can skip over the task of being brood mares for the system and go follow a career of their own. Women are completely different biological beings now.
Having said all that, I could care less about what rights women feel like they have over their bodies. I've always found that to be a weak argument on their behalf. I would say that the freedom to choose abortion should be based on the most trying circumstances and not an excuse to avoid being responsible.
RIGHTS RIGHTS RIGHTS, jesus...how about some responsibility, eh? I bet we could cut the abortion issue in half if younger people could actually think about marriage and building stable families after getting pregnant. But that's not happening and that's where we see another deficit of wisdom that contributes to the overall problem.
I'll finish off with a thought experiment:
If you came across a building on fire with 20 babies versus 100 embryos in test tubes, which would you save first?
To answer your last hypothetical first - to me, it is a no brainer, the babies, assuming it could not be both.
I agree with most of what you said down to the part about a women not having a right to her body - a very conservative position if there ever was one. It makes no difference to me what a women's motivation is to terminate a pregnancy, until the fetus is viable, it is nobody's business what she chooses. Now personally, I prefer she keep the fetus until term and put it up for adoption. But I, nor anybody else (other than the father, if known) have a say in the matter.
Even responsibility has no bearing here. Granted, it would be nice if the women had been responsible enough to keep her legs closed or to make sure the rubber had no holes. but hat is simply not the way the world works, especially the younger you are.
I never said women DIDN'T have the right to their own body. I just think that particular right is subordinate to other rights. Just like most rights are subordinate to the right of free speech. How am I using my right to free speech? Am I using instrumental language to manipulate others? Or am I using free speech to arrive at the best possible outcome for everyone?
The body ownership right is lower on the list of priorities in this country, IMO. And it IS a matter of responsibility because someone else's rights are my responsibility - to some degree. Whatever right someone chooses to uphold or not uphold has consequences to the world around them. I live in the world too, therefore it's my business.
I'm all for accepting the errors of the human condition as they come. But that shouldn't give people a license to be as eccentric, demanding and irresponsible as they want to be. Abortion is not a right, however. It is a scientific achievement that we must treat like a responsibility lest people abuse it - which they often do.
When it comes to the women's body issue, I support the part of the woman who supports the best interest of themselves. And it's not obvious to me that people always understand what's in their own best interest - psychologically speaking. So, if someone asks me, I will answer in terms of the surrounding context and implicit responsibility rather than hastily proclaim that they should "make a life-altering decision just because it's your body". There's more reasoning involved in every individual case. Sometimes the details of the situation transcend a simple right.
I don't feel the need to micromanage people's lives in the least. But I will say that people affect the world around them more than they are aware. Every time I make a bad choice (even if the choice seems right at the time), I make the world around me a worse place. The more I notice this butterfly effect, the more cautious and thoughtful I am versus "screw it, I do anything I want because it's my right and who are you to judge?". This is the difference between liberty/the freedom to make choices and complete anarchy.
And this "I never said women DIDN'T have the right to their own body. I just think that particular right is subordinate to other rights." is where we would disagree. I can't think of any more fundamental right than the right to ones own self.
From that, at least in my mind, come the Lockean rights of Life, health, Liberty, and Property (I have no idea why he didn't capitalize health) or Jefferson's Life, Liberty, and [Aristotle's] Happiness.
Well, there's a reason why suicide is illegal in this country. It's not just because we want to foster the life of citizens so they can keep paying their taxes. It's because that decision, however fundamental that right may be, has far-reaching consequences.
And, that may very well be apples vs. oranges but the principle of human rights is the same. And of course there are circumstances, as I conceded to with abortion, that merit assisted suicide and so on. You might say I'm a utilitarian in this regard.
But I think of this position as having less to do with conservatism as it has to do with how interconnected we all are. We don't exist as islands to ourselves. How we treat ourselves affects how we treat other people and vice versa. It's essentially a Buddhist point of view. Why wouldn't someone care for themselves as they would care for someone with whom they love? I believe its our moral obligation to do so.
"Well, there's a reason why suicide is illegal in this country."
I think I would disagree with this. It is illegal because Christianity has defined it as a sin and thus no one should be able to do it. But this is another one of the old definitions that is seeing a gradual change. Started by Kevorkian, it is spreading - suicide is legal in Oregon under certain circumstances. I predict that it will spread further, as well.
I disagree. A sin is undoubtedly many things depending on who you ask. But it is not merely a social construct.
There's one interpretation of sin that I took a liking to which is "To miss the mark". If our aim is to be good people in this world, and we make mistakes, you might say that we've missed our mark. Not only that but we are predestined to make mistakes. We should at least put some effort into highlighting the most consequential mistakes any human is capable of making. Those happen to be sins. Because they're universally unsustainable behaviors.
Of course it is a social construct. Implicit in what you're saying is that there is a "good" to be had, or at least striven for. The problem is that that "good" is re-defined by every society, by every person and as the environment changes through time; there is no natural "good" to be had, and there is no "sustainable behavior" that will fit all societies. We've seen some cultures last a long time (in terms of human lifespan if not in terms of the species lifespan) but they have all done so by changing into something different. And those that have lasted the longest have made the most changes, sometimes back into what they were to start with.
I have to agree with Wilderness; sin, whatever that is, is a social construct-it has to be almost by definition.
For example, assume a universe with no human intelligence present. It didn't happen that way, but it could have. In fact, let's go a step further and say the universe is full of rocks. Is there sin? I don't think so.
Relax our assumption a little and assume there is life in the universe, but it hasn't gotten beyond the spider or similar insect. Now that is reality because at some point in Earth's past there were no human beings capable of sentient thought, but there was certainly all forms of life. Is there sin in this situation? I think not.
Now add humans and voila, you have sin because humans are capable of conceiving it. Further, they can conceive of many different forms and degrees of it. Sin (morality), therefore, must be relativistic because to be declared a sin it must be that relative to something else. So killing someone (even the Bible can't agree on this) may or may not be a sin, depending on the circumstances.
As to suicide. Most, but not all, suicides are due to a mental breakdown and therefore should not, IMO, without some restraint. Why, because absent the mental illness, the person wouldn't chose that course of action. But you do have situations, the type that Oregon allows, where a person deliberately and rationally decides to stop living. And that should be legal.
I would add that through history and cultures, "sin" has a strong tendency to be what the leaders of a culture decide they don't want or what they perceive as harmful to them. If an activity is iwanted instead it tends to be classified differently.
Consider sex with underage children; children that are not capable, legally or mentally, of making a choice. Highly sinful in our culture, but others have (and do) consider it right a fitting for arranged marriages of young children. Dueling (legal murder) we would find sinful, but at least one of our Presidents killed in a formal duel and it was not considered sinful. Polygamous marriages are now sinful but once (and still, in other cultures) was common. It was extremely sinful to curse, but now few people in our culture don't do it. The list is endless; very nearly anything people do has, at one time or another and in one culture or another been considered sinful...and quite moral.
I guess that's where we come to an impasse. I don't believe in moral relativism. I think that's a dangerous game especially if you let governments take that position. That's how you get 60 million dead Soviets from 1919 to 1959. Not to mention Hitlers Germany, Mao's China, and North Korea.
Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God just a few decades before everything went to hell in the 20th century.
If you want to think we can just "conjure" artificial value systems, then you get hell. That's what happens. I'm not saying that everyone should become Christian, but we should at least recognize that people from the West derive their value systems from ancient religions. The same would be true for people in India with Hinduism. Most major religions overlap. Where they overlap is what accounts for their staying power in history.
It's my belief that happiness is not something that we should strive for. Rather we should strive for deeply meaningful engagement in the world. Happiness is never a guarantee in life but the meaning is. We define meaning for ourselves. Meaning helps us justify the inevitable suffering of life - even under the worst circumstances.
As Viktor Frankly aptly noted in Man's Search For Meaning...
"Its not a matter of what you can expect from life, its what life expects from you".
Several times during his experience in Auschwitz, Frankl had the opportunity to escape with fellow prisoners. Instead, he chose to stay behind and care for people infected with Typhus in the infirmary. He found a relief in sacrificing potential happiness for a greater human achievement. He regained his dignity by finding meaning in the worst possible misery.
And if I had to assign arbitrary meaning to life at a certain stage, it would be a near-fully-grown fetus with a heartbeat and nervous system. At that point, it is independent of the woman's body.
Having said that, I think we might still agree on many of these things. I don't have a black and white view of this issue, if you haven't noticed.
Personally, I don't see a clear definition of what "family values" are even though so-called conservatives talk about them all of the time. It seems to me the definition is transactional. Does family values include deporting a two-tour veteran who has a wife and children back to Mexico?
To me, that doesn't fit the definition, but many so-called conservatives think splitting up that family is the right thing to do. So you see, transactional.
Morality and ethics, on the other hand, are pretty well defined. 6 of the 10 Commandments, for example, are moral truisms (I include honor they parents in the six) that are common to any religeous or secular person.
Now, those are common throughout time and space. But then there is that set of personal moral (abortion is evil) and ethical (its OK to tell white lies) codes that apply to the individual but not necessarily all of society.
Come, come. There is nothing in that list that could be considered even remotely universal. Adultery isn't even a concept in some societies we've seen, and neither is the concept of property.
The Golden Rule comes closest, for it IS found in religious texts and beliefs from all over the world, but it is probably the most ignored of the bunch as well. But it's not a part of the Ten Commandments.
You're falling into the same trap as others do; "MY moral code is the right one, and if you don't agree and follow it then you don't have morals". Couple that with tremendous spin (such as saying that deporting an illegal alien splits families when those family members are quite welcome to accompany the alien home) and you but grow and expand the problem. Or that YOUR definition of a baby is the only one that is correct without ever recognizing that it has no more validity than any other definition; such things are not conducive to understanding or acceptance. Or to following your own personal moral code (unless it is "I am King and get whatever I want".
If this country were not so rigidly divided and narrowly labeled as “liberals” and “conservatives” rather than human beings who consider each issue on its own merit, perhaps we could have enlightened discussions that result in progress that actually makes sense.
Hi M.E. I just happened by and caught a bit of this discussion.
It seems to me that 'Justification' is a current form of religion, for many. A fetus looks like a baby by 8 weeks (that should mean something) and the sex can be determined by 12-14 weeks (that should eliminate the controversy) and yet so many choose to remain in denial of this fact. I guess just about anything can be justified, if you wish and hope and imagine it to be so, long enough.
I'll have to re-visit later to see what else is being discussed here. Curiosity piqued! A.B.
Jesse: "Everything you've just described doesn't bear any resemblance to me, yet, I'm a conservative." I know how you feel. I feel the same way when someone describes "all liberals".. Actually I'm a combination of both to varying degrees - as are most of us. But that is harder to write about. So much easier to just lump the population into two groups. Or better yet, identify as one and outright hate the other.
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