January 16, 2011


Symposium: What is Conservatism for?: An Interview with Harvey Mansfield (The Point)

TP: What is so appealing about Sarah Palin to conservatives?

HM: Well, she’s appealing to me, personally, and I like her. I like her for her enemies mostly. And when she came out on the stage at the Republican convention and referred to her husband as “my guy,” my heart went out to her. What a man always wants to hear … so the feminists hate her.

TP: Do you think that’s what’s responsible for her support among conservatives right now?

HM: And of course her good looks. That doesn’t hurt.

TP: What about her anti-intellectualism?

HM: And of course her anti-intellectualism has played in her favor with many people.

TP: Can one be an intellectual at the same time as a conservative?

HM: There are many intellectuals who are conservatives.

TP: But is there any tension between intellectual conservatives and the popular base of the party, which seems to be attracted to anti-intellectualism?

HM: An intellectual is a tinhorn philosopher who wants to spread philosophy rather than make claims with his own intellect, his working brain, as Marx said— which is a real perversion from the highest use of one’s intellect. But intellectuals are a feature of the modern world which isn’t going to go away, so I think conservatism might need to have intellectuals. Conservatives need alternative policies to the ones liberals propose and for that you need intellectuals, divided into big ideas people and wonks who are good at social science.

TP: Are you implying that the popular base of the conservative movement are anti-intellectual but would be pro-philosopher?

HM: Yeah, that’s right. If they knew a little more—if they were able to be more discriminating in their distrust of the intellectual.

Posted by at January 16, 2011 10:16 AM
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