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This report is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

Comment C.H. Sisson
Thinking is not compulsory for Conservatives, and opinions differ as to how many of them engage in it in practice. Supposing it to be not altogether harmful, one might still wonder what form it should take, for people engaged in the actual mangement of affairs, or even suffering - as who does not? - from the implications of that management. Most people with responsibilities in the practical world spend their thinking time on something other than final questions; the means are difficult enough and require a great deal of attention from those who deal in them. But in this book (Conservatism, by Ted Honderich, Penguin), we have the Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, no less, at University College, London, analysing with a precision and thoroughness not reserved for such things by politicians 'various Conservative propositions and the matter of a general rationale.' It could do no harm if politicians were to take time off to read the book, although it is by no means certain how far we, the mere bas peuple, could expect to benefit if they did.

The 'Conservatism' which is the subject of this exercise has a vague existence as a 'tradition' of 'belief, feeling, legislation and action … exemplified by the Conservative Party in Britain and part of the Republican Party in the United States'. Honderich is able to count nineteen distinctions possessed by this uncertain entity, and for him anyone counts as a Conservative 'who has or reflects a considerable ...


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