The Problem with Conservative Art: A Critique of Russell Kirk’s Metaphysical Conservatism

Philosophies 8 (2):26 (2023)
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In this paper I measure the progressive potentiality of art against Russell Kirk’s notion of “normative art”. Kirk argues that good literature cultivates virtue according to a transcendent norm, a law of nature. I interrogate the extent to which this art can be conservative according to Kirk’s own meaning of conservatism and read his own conservatism against itself in an effort to show which of its tenets detrimentally supersede and contradict its others. The criticism of Kirk’s discussion of normative art makes use of Charles Sanders Peirce’s more sophisticated epistemology, metaphysics, and normative science of aesthetics. Ultimately, Kirk’s conservatism and his position on normative art rely on metaphysical dualism and the gratuitous capacity of intuition. This ends in an unjustified discounting of his principles of variety, imperfectability, prescription, and continuity and their subordination to his principle of transcendence.



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Seth Vannatta
Morgan State University

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What Is Conservatism?John Kekes - 1997 - Philosophy 72 (281):351 - 374.

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