The good requires two loves: That of the self and that of a friend

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What is friendship and what is required of us to pursue it?

Might it be that friendship is simultaneously one of the greatest achievements of the individual and one of the greatest dangers to society as a whole?

In his book The Four Loves, the English writer C. S. Lewis argued that friendship, properly realized, was among the highest callings of humanity. He wrote that, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue.”

For Lewis, friendship was not without its difficulties, however, and he noted…


What it means to live in the arena

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Photo by Ian Dooley

What does it mean to be a citizen in a republic?

This question, oft asked but seldom answered, is closely linked with another inquiry, equally little understood.

If God is good, why is there evil?

The link between these two questions is the imperative acting principle that drives the success or failure of the constitutional way of life and, indeed, of every other noble human enterprise. Put simply, that principle is the capacity of the citizen to successfully pursue the good.

In book five of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that being a good man is not necessarily the same…


Religion and education are two steps towards the same goal

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What is the proper conjunction of religion, education, and politics in American society? Is there one? Ought there be?

These are vital questions in any era and cannot be answered merely through recourse to popular American ideological loyalties such as the separation of church and state or the freedom of school choice. Rather, to answer these questions we must understand the connected purposes of religion and education in the common life of America.

In book VII of his Politics, Aristotle argued that there are three elements that work together to make a person virtuous: Nature, habit, and reason. …


Must majority rule always end in tyranny?

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Does democracy invariably lead to tyranny?

Philosophers and statesmen from Plato to Thomas Jefferson answered that question with a resounding “Yes!”

For them, the rule of the many necessitated the subjugation of the few. Their individual philosophies varied greatly but, in all, their arguments against democracy were predicated on a core understanding of the nature of politics and humanity.

That understanding, put simply, is that liberty and equality are mutually exclusive magisteria.

Arguably, no philosopher in recent decades did more to examine and champion this view than the Austrian-born Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. His many writings on the subject, both as…


Freedom of progress requires submission to tradition

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Photo by Jr Korpa

Americans do not trust their institutions anymore.

But does this loss of trust reflect a failure of our institutions? Or of ourselves?

Could it be possible that the contemporary ideals of our culture, in fact, have made healthy institutions untenable?

This is the argument of Yuval Levin in his recent article, “The Case for Wooden Pews.”

Therein, Levin contends that current ideals about human freedom and goodness have led to a desire for our formative institutions to lesson their rigor in favor of maximizing acceptance at any cost. This neglect of rigor has, in turn, resulted in widespread institutional failures…


Conservative thought will fail without a re-centering

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It is no secret that conservatism as a movement has come up short in the imaginations of would-be politicians and philosophers alike as of late.

But, has the promise of conservatism failed us, or we it? What is the purpose of conservatism? How ought we realize that purpose and improve upon it?

It is generally recognized that conservatism is neither a doctrine nor even a codified set of instructions for behavior. Instead, Michael Oakeshott called it a “disposition.” Roger Scruton wrote that it was an “instinct.” Russell Kirk preferred to think of it as “a body of sentiments.”

Plainly, conservatism…


America: A people, or an institution?

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Photo by Joshua Sukoff

For centuries, Christians have understood all too well the immense chasm that can open between the institutional church and the church that exists wherever two or more Christians gather. Such a chasm was a leading cause of the Protestant Reformation and the horrific and bloody Wars of Religion that followed.

A similar gap has opened between what we might now consider as institutional America and the American people.

Like its 16th-century church predecessor, institutional America is a labyrinth of pomp ritual, overt influence peddling, and internecine chicanery.

Like their 16th-century church predecessors, the American people are fed up and tired…


The enduring importance of Russell Kirk’s tenth principle

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Images by Florian Olivo and Dave Herring

As the United States enters another presidential era, the country is wracked with violence, discontentment, and a general miasma of enmity.

Though popular media would have the American people believe that this terrible cultural struggle is being fought by the opposing ideologies of the radical Left and Right, the truth of the matter is a more nuanced and concerning thing. Indeed, much of the outpouring of violence, hatred, and nihilism that defines the current political landscape of America is due to a loss of understanding of the nature of progress and permanence.

Ask a left-wing activist on the street what…


The purge of the Right will not heal the nation

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Photo by Jon Tyson

President Donald Trump may be the most hated man in America this week.

As usual, this is not without some cause. The manner in which Trump and his followers are being castigated from our society as a result, however, belies the simple truth that a far greater evil is at work in the hearts of many Americans than exists in the heart of Trump. Indeed, there is a grave sin against the virtue of the Republic cropping up everywhere one looks as of late.

To bear this out, it is necessary to understand the great tragedy of Trump, and what…


What Roger Scruton offers America

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Photo by Norali Nayla

One year ago today, the philosopher Roger Scruton passed away, and the man became a myth.

Or better yet, a legend.

Or better yet, a memory.

Scruton’s diverse writings tackled the myriad subjects of beauty, conservatism, wine, and yes, even fox hunting. His works crossed nonfiction, literary fiction, and opera. His more than fifty published monographs mindfully explored a myriad of topics in an output reminiscent of a Christopher Hitchens or a C.S. Lewis.

But what does some British conservative philosopher have to do with this newsletter, the theme of which is “conserving the American idea”?

In a word: Everything.

Andrew Thornebrooke

Husband + Editor of The Rearguard

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