The Practicality of General Ideas

how_to_build_societySome people try to find a practical solution to problems on a purely pragmatic basis without reference to moral and intellectual ideas. Such a conception of life is in the final analysis impractical since the person must constantly be searching for solutions for each problem and thus often falls into error. It deprives a person of the means to form one’s life according to general principles that can be securely applied to concrete circumstances. In this sense, Russell Kirk notes:

Subscription8.11The more civilized people become, the more do they depend upon general ideas. Only the primitive savage manages to get along, after a fashion, in a ‘practical’ way, without much reference to moral and intellectual concepts. …The savage remains a savage if he does not acquire general principles about which to form his life. The civilized man sinks back into savagery when he forgets the principles that have made possible his material accomplishments.” (Russell Kirk, The American Cause, Gleaves Whitney, ed., ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2002, p. 10.)