Monday, December 19, 2005

Connecting Conservatives

You may be wondering what I have been working on, as opposed to writing my regular blog posts. Now that I have finished my first term at Yale, I am semi-free to turn my attention towards blogging once again.

I want to address the issue of Conservatives at college. There certainly aren’t many compared to the liberals – a Yale Daily News poll, for what it’s worth, found that only 15% of the student body identifies itself as Conservative. In such an unbalanced environment, a Conservative student is likely to find an unfortunate dearth of the classical view of morality, which is very dear to him. He may be hard pressed to find even a handful of students who understand the importance of chivalry.

Such handfuls do exist, however. There are little pockets of Conservatives on campuses all across the country. I want us to be able to talk to each other.

I am going to create a new blog that will be a forum for college Conservatives to share their ideas. We will collect representatives – reporters – from colleges across the country, who will keep us informed of the leftist games the administration plays and of their attempts to fight them.

I am starting this as a Yale blog. Getting students at other colleges to participate may be hard at first – until we reach a critical mass. If we can get to that critical mass then we should be able to create a national network of conservative students.

So the sum of my little message here is this: if you are a conservative at college, or know conservatives at college who would like to contribute pieces about the political climate on campus, please let me know. Just drop me an email at, and we’ll see if we can get this ball rolling.


At 6:28 PM, Blogger Janelle said...

good stuff.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Alex said...


I hope your exams went well. If you'll permit me to speak as somebody slightly older (without any intention to patronize), I'd say that the first batch is always the most difficult--at least in terms of learning how to deal with the stress level.

On a different note, I'm interested to know how you would define "the classical view of morality." Chivalry is an interesting term to use as a representative--especially because, in my mind, "classic chivalry" implied some degree of misogyny--but how, in braoder terms, would you define that concept? Would it include racism, which was once, after all, accpted as a moral institution? Really, I don't mean to pick a fight here. But I'm a progressive, and I consider myself to be "moral," and I'm interested to see how our definitions of "morality" conflict or overlap, as the case may be.

Thanks, in advance, for taking the time to respond.


At 10:56 AM, Blogger Reuven said...

Seconding Alex's question.


At 6:43 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

I believe I will adress this in my next post, because it is an important question.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Why chivalry and not virtue?

-Mr. Alec

At 1:29 PM, Blogger allen said...

Chivalry is a virtue.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Alex said...

How would you define chivalry?

Just curious.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger allen said...

From Merriam-Webster Online:


1: valiant
2: of, relating to, or characteristic of chivalry and knight-errantry
3a: marked by honor, generosity, and courtesy
3b: marked by gracious courtesy and high-minded consideration especially to women

How do you construe misogyny and racism from that?

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Hi, Allen.

Just to clarify, I never meant to imply that racism is a component of chivalry. I simply asked whether it should be considered a part of "the classical view of morality" given that it was once considered to be a moral institution. It was really just part of an effort to convince Dan to define what he meant by morality, which, I'm grateful to hear, he promised to do.

As for chivalry, I appreciate your definition of the term, but as you know, the classic Chivalric Code long predates Mr. Webster (or is it Mrs? I can never remember). Instead, much of our modern understanding of what was meant by chivalry comes out of surviving Arthurian Romances. Among the most commonly cited (and most widely read) of those stories is that of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," which is as well known for its misogyny as it is for its gripping plot. During one of the most striking moments in the text, Sir Gawain likens all women to the "sinful" Eve and characterizes them as the source of all evil. From the ill-intentioned damsels encountered along the knights' quests to the cheating Queen Guinevere, herself, women are often given the short end of the stick in the stories that came out of King Arthur's court. With few exceptions (Enide of "Erec and Enide" would be one), if women aren't portrayed as evil, then they're damsels in distress--women who are incapable of doing anything without the support of a valiant and male knight. Neither of these representations of females constitutes a proper or accurate picture of women.

If your understanding of what chivalry is has been modernized--traditional chivalry also mandated allegiance to the Church, after all--then I'd be interested to hear what you have in mind. Most recently, I've heard college boys cite "chivalry" to justify charging boys, but not girls, to get into a party. So, I guess I'm reposing my question. What, in your mind, is chivalry if not both Christian and misogynistic? And if you do employ a new definition--more along the lines of that used by Webster, for example--how would you ensure that when such a loosely defined term is used, everyone is on the same page about what it means?

Again, I have no intention of starting a fight here--or even a heated argument. I'm just curious to hear your thoughts (along with those of anybody else who has an opinion on the subject). After all, I, like you, am in favor of both "courtesy" and "generosity." And at least in that sense, I wish that some of the principles of the chivalric code were more widely held.


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At 5:31 PM, Blogger allen said...

My misread on the racism although I fail to see the connection other then that slavery and chivalry coexisted. I doubt that, in the context of the times, slavery would have been viewed as an issue of morality. Slavery was a valuable economic institution found in every culture of the period.

Also, in the context of the time, how could women be portrayed? While from our point of view treating woman as chattels would be immoral and unacceptable, that's a fairly recent development. At the time there weren't that many ways in which women and men could interact. To be of interest to a knight a woman had to either be a villian or a victim. No one else would be in need of or subject to a knight's skills. And no woman would end up as a knight for both social and physical reasons.

While the original intention, meaning and source of chivalry is interesting, and worth knowing to provide a frame of reference, I don't see how it's relevent to the modern usage of the term as typified by the definition from Mr. Webster's dictionary. Even less relevent is the inventiveness of college guys in bending every possible opportunity to the task of getting into the pants of college girls.

The institution of chivalry is certainly an outgrowth of Christianity but I don't see a compelling case for labelling it misogynistic if viewed within its appropriate, historical context. So, judging historical chivalry by modern standards is, at best, inappropriate and at worst, disingenuous.

I just noticed that I used the word "context" three times in this fairly short post. Sigh.


At 10:45 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Alright, first: people are throwing around the term classic. The medieval ages don't really seem to have anything classic about them. In fact basically everyone agrees that it was a reversion from classical thought and practices that were renewed in the Renaissance and continue today. It seems odd then that chivalry is considered to be in anyway a classic trait or virtue seeing as how it is in no way classical. But that is just semantics.

Second: On the matter of morality, because this word is being thrown around. How one acts morally is learned by the study of ethics. One acts morally if one is virtuous. Different groups have different virtues. THE classic virtues are Platostotle's which are basically wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice (Plato's Republic 427e). So in order to be moral, one is wise, couragous, moderate, and just. (Of course there are other moral beliefs but they are not classic, so don't call new ones classic because you think it sounds good).

This leads to my third point...on the matter of virtue, so even if we assume that all of chivalry is one of the virtues, then we still know that chivalry is not virtue, it is just a subset of virtue, one of the pieces. This is why I asked my first question: why chivalry instead of virtue?

Even in its modern sense (but very interesting Alex on the derivation of chivalry) one can be quite chivalrous while still being completely immoral because they seek out honor too much, perhaps at the expense of their wisdom. Or, one can fight to demonstrate great courage at the expense of justice, or at the expense of themself, making them foolhardy. All of these scenario's would preclude someone from virtue, but still make them chivalrous.

So where does that leave the philosophical importance of chivalry? Well it is certainly not insignificant, but it is surely not the whole shabang. Why settle for half when you can have the whole thing?


Well I think the reason is that Dan is not looking for a broad view of chivalry, which I guess the rest of you would define as virtue (not just a virtue, but virtue). Instead I think, that he seems to be looking mainly at manliness/courage and courtesy to the other sex, especially the latter. This loosely defined would mean: being a good guy whose willing to stand up for what is right (although he may not know what is right because he was too busy lifting weights to gain wisdom, but whatever).


Last, Allen, I loved how you justified slaveries morality by citing its economic importance. Last time I checked that is a view only held by dirty relativists, which are certainly unchristian (although the Catholic church was OK with slavery until it realized it wasn't moral, but whatever). But my favorite, Machiavelli, would back you up on that justification. Ahhhhh...Machiavelli, so badass.


Mr. Alec

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Janelle said...

The slavery thing bugged me too. Why? Because everybody commenting in this blog knows that it wasn't just an economic consideration. It wasn't an important institution for most of the south, because most whites in the antebellum period didn't even own slaves. And slavery was viewed as an issue of morality during those times. That bbrings me to a nice segue into what I've been wanting to say. In my mind classic morality, or a clear definition of what is good or bad, does not change with circumsatance or time. Slavery was wrong, Slavery is wrong and it will continue to be so.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger allen said...

Do you? I love your long, tedious, semi-coherent, rambling posts which fairly reek of the assumption of vast intelligence.

By the way, since it's pretty easy to read what I wrote, anyone who wants to see what you refer too when you, with over-elaborate sarcasm, congratulate me for my justification for slavery has but to scroll up the page. Want to guess how well you come across to anyone who's up to that minor exertion?

To get back to the thread, Alec, you might want to consider why you confer importance on exceptions - Sir Gawain, college guys - as representative of the understanding of the term "chivalry". I've got my own theory why chivalry would be negatively portrayed by progressives but I'd like to read your explanation.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Warner Family Views said...

Hey Republican Dan:
Once you've got all the conservatives connected, why don't you send them to Iraq. The Sunnis are getting tired of killing the lumpen proletariat.
Or better yet, why don't you show the integrity of a true conservative, admit you're wrong and get out.
I'm sure the "leftist" administration at Yale could give you some good advice on that.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...


By no means do I view chivalry as a bad thing. This is not me trying to show that anyone is wrong, this is me trying to get people to notice that there is a lot more to leading a virtuous life than chivalry.

I guess to me, wisdom is the king, which is not to say that chivalry is unimportant, but merely that it is just a natural offspring of wisdom.

Perhaps the best way of expressing my feelings would to consider the Renaissance notion of the "idle" life, which was considered to be the worst way of life. Idleness was hated at the time (and rightly so), and it applied to the mind as much as the body. Both are parts of humans with enormous potential that must be properly exploited to get the most you can out of them.

To me, avoiding idleness is something very important me. It definately trumps any idea of chivalry (although courage definately falls into the idea of not being idle). Now being nice to my girlfriend is something my girlfriend values, but I'd rather read Plato than hold a door open for her. Hopefully that is chivalry vs. my view in a nutshell.

Also, I wanted to distinguish classical virtues from very unclassical virtues (with chivalry being one of the very unclassical virtues if we define classical as
coming from the Greeks and not from the anything but classical middle ages).

Last, I stand by my assertion that Machiavelli's virtues (which were actually anti-virtues) are the most badass, and probably the closest to reality (and oddly enough the foundation of a lot of conservative/republican beliefs).

That is all (hopefully that wasn't too incoherent, it is pretty late).


Mr. Alec

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Sorry Allen,

Upon further review, it seems I may have missed addressing your question.

To attempt to answer it one more time, I would say that first of all progressives do not dislike chivalry.

But the reason I may say that is because our defintions of chivalry may be very different which is why it would be worthwhile to agree on a definition.

In look at it though, we have 2 rough definitions. First, the broad definition, where chivalry basically means to be virtuous. Second, we have the tighter definiton that I gave above (which I think Dan is much closer to) that is basically a reaction to the popular conception of what college life is at a large and rowdy university.

I think if we are measuring either conservative or progressives feeling about either of those definitions as their success rate that either group has in actually doing what they may or may not preach, then progressives fall into both categories just as frequently as conservatives. Honestly I don't know if either preaches either of those definitions because what they say there is just politics.

Anyways, hopefully that was coherent.


Mr. Alec


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