Being Unteachable is a Vice

If we can’t learn from the people who have something to teach us, we put ourselves at a considerable disadvantage.

What I appreciate about people on “the right” is that they tend to be more respectful of and receptive to old ideas, old texts, old ways, even if such thing might seem initially strange or off-putting. A little patience, a little curiosity, and soon these archaic oddities may sometimes begin to reveal an inner logic and beauty that has been lost to the modern world.

This opens them up to unexpected treasures which are available only to those who go diving into the writings of antiquity. Not all conservatives do this of course, but at the same time I think it is fair to say that there’s no one who does engage in it who doesn’t have some hint of the conservative within them.

I can’t feel entirely at home with the left, where there is typically less trust and more hubris in the attitudes cast toward older thinkers. Insofar as these categories of left and right are meaningful, that is an important consideration for me. That’s not the end of it either, though.

What I find frustrating about people on “the right,” then, is that they are frequently unable to be appreciative of or instructed by more contemporary texts that do not agree with their biases. In this way, they are just as unteachable and obstinate as anyone on the left, and are equally disadvantaged by their irrational obstinacy.

We see, then, the left reading many antiquated texts, if they read them at all, with hostility, to show how they were wrong and how far we have progressed, and to see where the roots of contemporary mistakes may be found. On the other side, we see the right reading more contemporary thinkers and newer ideas, if they read them at all, with hostility, to show how they are wrong and how far we have fallen, and to discover the foundations of contemporary errors.

In my view, both projects are deeply wrongheaded, and easily avoided. The person who seeks to learn from both sides, rather than mindlessly to resist the one or the other, will be at an incomprehensibly great advantage.

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