Men cannot improve a society by setting fire to it: they must seek out its old virtues, and bring them back into the light.

— Russell Kirk

The most joyful Russell Kirk quotes you will be delighted to read

If you want to have order in the commonwealth, you first have to have order in the individual soul.

65

The conservative "thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.

61

I am a conservative. Quite possibly I am on the losing side; often I think so. Yet, out of a curious perversity I had rather lose with Socrates, let us say, than win with Lenin.

42

The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of the spirit and character – with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.

39

We ought not to endeavor to revise history according to our latter day notions of what things ought to have been, or upon the theory that the past is simply a reflection of the present

36

Prejudice is not bigotry or superstition, although prejudice sometimes may degenerate into these. Prejudice is pre-judgment, the answer with which intuition and ancestral consensus of opinion supply a man when he lacks either time or knowledge to arrive at a decision predicated upon pure reason.

33

Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.

22

Humility, which Burke ranked high among the virtues, is the only effectual restraint upon this congenital vanity; yet our world has nearly forgotten the nature of humility. Submission to the dictates of humility formerly was made palatable to man by the doctrine of grace; that elaborate doctrine has been overwhelmed by modern presumption.

20

Real literature is something much better than a harmless instrument for getting through idle hours. The purpose of great literature is to help us to develop into full human beings.

19

The Secular City, having legislated and litigated itself out of any entanglement with the City of God, would be a hell upon earth .

13

Privilege, in any society, is the reward of duties performed.

12

Schooling deprived of religious insights is wretched education.

11

About Russell Kirk

Quotes 56 sayings
Profession Historian
Birthday October 19, 1918

The aim of great books is ethical: to teach what it means to be a man.

Every major form of literary art has taken for its deeper themes what T.S. Eliot called "the permanent things"-the norms of human action.

11

The good society is marked by a high degree of order, justice, and freedom.

Among these, order has primacy: for justice cannot be enforced until a tolerable civil social order is attained, nor can freedom be anything better than violence until order gives us laws.

11

Rousseau and his disciples were resolved to force men to be free;

in most of the world, they triumphed; men are set free from family, church, town, class, guild; yet they wear, instead, the chains of the state, and they expire of ennui or stifling lone lines.

10

Some 'separation' zealots would expunge any vestige of religious observance in public schools. Many of the same anti-religious fanatics would like to wipe out of existence all church-related schools, by regulation or taxation, so that universal ignorance of the life of spirit should prevail.

10

If men are discharged of reverence for ancient usage, they will treat this world, almost certainly, as if it were their private property, to be consumed for their sensual gratification; and thus they will destroy in their lust for enjoyment the property of future generations, of their own contemporaries, and indeed their very own capital.

10

Nothing is more conservative than conservation

10

The issue of environmental quality is one which transcends traditional political boundaries. It is a cause which can attract, and very sincerely, liberals, conservatives, radicals, reactionaries, freaks, and middle-class straights.

9

The modern spectacle of vanished forests and eroded lands, wasted petroleum and ruthless mining, national debts recklessly increased until they are repudiated, and continual revision of positive law, is evidence of what an age without veneration does to itself and its successors.

9

The principle of real leadership ignored, the immortal objects of society forgotten, practical conservatism degenerated into mere laudation of private enterprise, economic policy almost wholly surrendered to special interests.

5

Mine was not an Enlightened mind, I now was aware: it was a Gothic mind, medieval in its temper and structure. I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization; what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful.

5

It is good for a student to be poor. Getting and spending, the typical American college student lays waste his powers. Work and contemplation don't mix, and university days ought to be days of contemplation.

4

Principle #6: Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress.

3

True conformity to the dictates of nature requires reverence for the past and solicitude for the future. 'Nature' is not simply the sensation of the passing moment; it is eternal, though we evanescent men experience only a fragment of it. We have no right to imperil the happiness of posterity by impudently tinkering with the heritage of humanity.

3

I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization;

what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful. I despised sophisters and calculators; I was groping for faith, honor, and prescriptive loyalties. I would have given any number of neo-classical pediments for one poor battered gargoyle.

3

The decay of old aristocratic prejudices against greedy speculation, the undermining of orthodox Christian faith (which forbids avarice)... the debauching of agriculture to a gross money-getting concern: these particular aspects of a vast and voracious concentration upon profits are so many illustrations of our sinning confusion of values.

3

Despite much talk in this land about religious freedom, churches and their schools now confront grave difficulties.

3

There are no lost causes because there are no gained causes.

2

And Burke, could he see our century, never would concede that a consumption-society, so near to suicide, is the end for which Providence has prepared man.

0

To check centralization and usurping of power .

.. we require a new laissez-faire. The old laissez-faire was founded upon a misapprehension of human nature, an exultation of individuality (in private character often a virtue) to the condition of a political dogma, which destroyed the spirit of community and reduced men to so many equipollent atoms of humanity, without sense of brotherhood or purpose.

0

...ambition without pious restraint must end in failure, often involving in its ruin that beautiful reverence which solaces common men for the obscurity and poverty of their lot.

0

Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility.

0

Either order in the cosmos is real, or all is chaos.

If we are adrift in chaos, then the fragile egalitarian doctrines and emancipating programs of the revolutionary reformers have no significance; for in a vortex of chaos, only force and appetite signify.

0

Individualism is a denial that life has any meaning except the gratification of the ego; in politics it must end in anarchy. It is not possible for one man to be both Christian and Individualist.

0

The ACLU has been able to harass out of existence public expressions of faith.

0

...so mankind is now trapped by the failure of its energies and by the depletion of those natural resources that men have plundered wantonly.

0

If a conservative order is indeed to return, we ought to know the tradition which is attached to it, so that we may rebuild society; if it is not to be restored, still we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilizations escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite.

0

Locke contended that government originates out of the necessity for protecting property.

0

A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.

0

Life is for action, and if we desire to know anything, we must make up our minds to be ignorant about much.

0

Politics moves upward into ethics, and ethics ascends to theology.

0

A society which denies the heart its role becomes, in very short order, a heartless society.

0

The natural law is an instrument for progress, not a weapon of revolution.

0

Even the wisest of mankind cannot live by reason alone;

pure arrogant reason, denying the claims of prejudice (which commonly are also the claims of conscience), leads to a wasteland of withered hopes and crying loneliness, empty of God and man: the wilderness in which Satan tempted Christ was not more dreadful than the arid expanse of intellectual vanity deprived of tradition and intuition, where modern man is tempted by his own pride.

0

The resources of nature, like those of spirit, are running out, and all that a conscientious man can aspire to be is a literal conservative, hoarding what remains of culture and of natural wealth against the fierce appetites of modern life.

0

Not by force of arms are civilizations held together, but by subtle threads of moral and intellectual principle.

0

The libertarian thinks that this world is chiefly a stage for the swaggering ego; the conservative finds himself instead a pilgrim in a realm of mystery and wonder, where duty, discipline, and sacrifice are required-and where the reward is that love which passeth all understanding.

0

Ordinary human laws are the means - however imperfect - by which we express our understanding of the enduring moral law.

0
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