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Conservatism and Pragmatism builds on the insights of classical British conservative thought and classical American pragmatist philosophy in order to illustrate the methodological norms which inform inquiry into ethics, politics, law, and history. The conservative is skeptical of the ahistorical rationalism that permeates social contract and deliberative democratic theory in politics, deontology and utilitarianism in ethics, and formalism in law. A skeptical conservative begins inquiry, not with a priori principles, but within the received traditions, customs, and cultural experiences of some particular context, much as a pragmatist begins inquiry with experience. Both of these methodologies eschew the false universalism of a priori thinking, and turn instead to localized, contextual, and experiential inquiry. The pragmatist and conservative skeptic of rationalism includes aesthetic dimensions of experience in theoretical reflections about morality. The conservative and pragmatist attend to custom, habit, and experience, not first principles, but in moral, political, and legal inquiries.
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