I recently found myself stating in one of my classes that conservative thought was inherently incompatible with humanistic inquiry and praxis. Though I offered a brief explanation of my statement to my class, I felt that there was a need to further expound my statement and to trace the very geneology of my desire to express it.
What I mean by conservatism, of course, needs a bit of an explanation. To me conservative mode of thinking relies heavily on metaphysical and religious explanations of the real and presupposes, to a certain degree, that certain ideas, thoughts, and practices are a priori wrong, forbidden, or unacceptable. Such an approach to critical inquiry, thus, can very easily foreclose certain fields and modes of inquiry.
Thus, in a conservative mode humanities and humanistic practice would cease to be an open-ended questioning of truth and would have to rely on certain exclusionary practices that predecide the permissibility and impermissibility of certain thoughts and practices. This foreclosure, caused by assumptions and practices dictated by one’s religious or political presuppositions, would eventually end up making the conservative humanist to be selective in what to include as an object of study.
Such predecided exclusions, I believe, are against the very practice of an open-ended inquiry and the inclusionary practices that encourage us to think at the very limit of thought. To be effective, humanistic inquiry must not prejudge or exclude any possible avenue of inquiry and only a progressive and inclusive politics can enable us to do that.
And since conservatism depends on stable boundaries and exclusionary practices to maintain that stability, it is, therefore, an unsuitable politics for an open and more complex humanistic philosophy and praxis.