Questions for Historicist Traditionalists

In the back-and-forth debate over historicism, here are some questions for the historicist-traditionalist conservatives:

1. How does the historicist-traditionalist effectively discern whether or not the tradition in which he or she exists is an appropriate expression of the universal good, true and beautiful?

2. what is the method by which a historicist-traditionalist determines that his interpretation of the tradition is consistent with the actual tradition? Does the tradition exist independently of the person who experiences it, that is to say?

3. How are we to understand dynamics of actions such as change and transformation (such as revolution and counterrevolution) and continuity? Is there a point at which history does not matter? Can we tease out causes and effects at some general level or are we not supposed to? Is the hitoricist-traditionlist acknowledgement of historicity also an acknowledgment that we only make intelligible human action and deny the possibility of such an project of human knowledge?

4. How does the historicist-traditionalist reconcile the claims of a an often theological claim about a universal human nature, with the denial and downplay of the universality of our fallenness or determinedness across time and space? That is to say, how does the historicist-traditionalist affirm human nature while maintaining the primacy of the historicity of both experience and reality? It would seem that there would be a tension between affirming a human nature and affirming that human experience is defined by its historicity. Either we have a human nature and that this nature is not historically-dependent, but rather is universal and can be extrapolated from specific experiences and known abstractly; or we deny an immutable human nature because we humans cannot escape history and we cannot have knowledge outside of historical experience, which would cast doubt on the existence of an immutable and universal human nature (I am thinking of what edmund wrote about the “inexhaustible” source that universality is, but that just seems to me to suggest that this worldview provides someone with many many ways to really screw the world up, all in an effort to enjoy all the particular pleasures that are possibly found in that inspiration known as the universal). I think that the historicist-traditionlist is presupposing something else (such as Christianity) which necessarily colors, limits and guides historicism, which as a result, may be better understood as useful took to make sense of the world he experiences; it is not indicative or representative of human experience otherwise.

5. What does the historicist-traditionalist say to other conservatives who argue against historicism in favor of a foundation in some kind of knowledge or status that transcends history? Are non-historicist forms of traditionalism and conservatism compatible with each other or are they closed off to one another?

I’ll close with a Mises quote

“The theorems of economics, say the historicists, are void because they are the product of a priori reasoning. Only historical experience can lead to realistic economics. They fail to see that historical experience is always the experience of complex phenomena, of the joint effects brought about by the operation of a multiplicity of elements. Such historical experience does not give the observer facts in the sense in which the natural sciences apply this term to the results obtained in laboratory experiments. Historical facts need to be interpreted on the ground of previously available theorems. They do not comment upon themselves. The antagonism between economics and historicism does not concern the historical facts. It concerns the interpretation of the facts.”

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4 thoughts on “Questions for Historicist Traditionalists

  1. Pingback: One More Question for Traditionalists « Beyond the GOP

  2. Pingback: Traditionalism and “Transcendent Truth” « Beyond the GOP

  3. Pingback: Burke and Traditionalism « Beyond the GOP

  4. Pingback: President Oakeshott « Beyond the GOP

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