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Eva Brann--The Imaginative Conservative

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on October 12, 2018 18:41

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In 2015, Dr. Eva Brann, a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, published a 12-point essay titled “Reflections on Imaginative Conservativism” declaring: “The imaginative conservative’s practical project is survival without loss of soul.” After reading that, I ordered her book on the topic, "Then and Now," which begins with Herodotus. Still seeking to learn more, I went to Annapolis, to ask Dr. Brann in person how Imaginative Conservatism works....

Many people believe Liberals have a monopoly on imagination, which is why they dominate Hollywood and the media. However, the author of The World of the Imagination: Sum and Substance, thinks Conservatives can compete in the realm of ideas.
 
In 2015, Dr. Eva Brann, a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, published her 12-point essay titled  “Reflections on Imaginative Conservativism” declaring: “The imaginative conservative’s practical project is survival without loss of soul.”
 
After reading that, I ordered her book on the topic, Then and Now, which begins with Herodotus. Still seeking to learn more, I went to Annapolis, to ask Dr. Brann in person how Imaginative Conservatism works.
 
I learned that for Dr. Brann, now in her 90th year, imagination plays a role much like the Ego did for Sigmund Freud—a mediator between two extremes.

For Freud, the conflict was between primal Id and restrictive Superego. Brann's paradigm comes from Aristotle’s Philosophy of the Soul: “It is the function of the imagination to mediate between perception and thought.”

In other words, imagination is central to reason and experience. Thought is not historically determined, but freely imagined.
 
“Imaginative Conservativism” pictures the future rooted in history, while Liberals derive it from Utopia. Differences in imagination explain why Liberals and Conservatives live in two different worlds. They literally have different movies running in their heads, as Scott Adams says.
 
Dr. Brann believes an “Imaginative Conservative” is simply someone who imagines where actions--or inaction--might lead.

Although she is not a Trump fan (she preferred McCain), I think her definition applies to the President, especially this observation:
 
…an imaginative conservative will have, against all odds, an abiding faith in eccentric centrality. A nun I used to know once explained to me that the energy which moves the world has its center in out-of-the-way places, remote from the mere epicenters of secular power. I agree. The spirit lives in the sticks, in backwaters, small towns, in self-sufficiently recalcitrant, contentedly unregarded places…
 
Donald Trump’s home borough of Queens, NY is remote from the centers of power…and he is certainly eccentric. Which makes Brann’s “Imaginative Conservativism” a good explanation of Donald Trump’s success.
 
Her extensive scholarship—four translations of Plato, scholarly books, dozens of articles and lectures—led to the discovery of her remarkable paradigm, a counterpart to Lionel Trilling’s “Liberal Imagination.”
 
Paul Dry, who has published more of Eva Brann's books than anyone else, sums it up: “Communal images are what bind us together…We conserve these memories, they become the way we find meaning in our lives.”
 
One might see perception as the realm of Conservatives--who see things as they are--and thought as the domain of Liberals--who see things as they ought to be. 
 
In-between lies the imagination, how one pictures the future, and it is up for grabs.
 
After reading Dr. Brann’s work, one must conclude that Imagination, rather than History, is the essence of Civilization.
 

Laurence Jarvik

Posted on October 12, 2018 18:41

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Source: 1030 KVOI AM

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