PLATO, ARISTOTLE, AQUINAS, KANT, HEGEL-- this is the speculative tradition from which Gadamer derives, and, incidentally, in the first three of whom Edmund Burke's idea of prudence, taken from the tradition of Aquinas' prudentia and Aristotle's phronsis, also has its origins. But just this tradition, principally because of its challenge to autonomous reason, has been nearly suppressed in the English-speaking Enlightenment tradition, of which Locke, Mill, and Anglo-American moral philosophers generally are the inheritors and for whom any such thinking as Edmund Burke's is synonomous with restauration, reaction, and privilege. (See Thomas Paine The Rights of Man, for example, but also Maclntyre After Virtue, pp. 221-22.) But is theirs a fair assessment?
It is evident by now that in following the speculative tradition Gadamer arrives at a position which in the usual political and ethical parlance would be called conservative. However, in the process he has done a great deal to demarcate the sense of "conservative" from "reactionary" and hence to shield his argument from the objections generally raised against so-called conservative thinking. For, obviously, reactionaries, the sophists of Plato's time and our own, though supposedly teaching conformity to the established ways of doing things, are not conservative in Gadamer's sense at all: their principle, if it can
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Publication information: Book title: Hermeneutics and Human Finitude:Toward a Theory of Ethical Understanding. Contributors: P. Christopher Smith - Author. Publisher: Fordham University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 267.