I’ve had quite a few responses to “My Intelligence Hypothesis” post a few weeks ago. Some critical, most inquisitive—particularly regarding the “other” group. I want to address those by expanding on the thoughts from the original post.
There is something wrong with the present system of ideological allegiance. Unless an individual is self-described as a moderate (which is completely non-constructive) or disinterested, they must fall into two categories: conservative and liberal. Priest James V. Schall recognizes the problem, “We are required to define everything as either liberal or conservative even when the two allowable terms of definition are not adequate to explain the reality that they are intended to describe.” Surely not every mind falls neatly into these models.
While there are undoubtedly infinite variants of liberal and conservative, “My Intelligence Hypothesis” finds it worthwhile to introduce a third group—which we’ll call neo-moderates (of no relation to neoconservatives or neoliberals).
By definition, conservatives accept what’s given to them. Liberals evaluate conservative views and reject them. The idea behind this third group—neomoderates—is that they hear both sides and principally reject both. They may accept tenets or features of either ideology, but their rational operates above and beyond either. Their name comes from the supposition that they would often hold similar practical beliefs as either conservatives or liberals, but these beliefs they overlap on are held often for very different reasons.
The question now is, just because it is plausible for a third group to exist beyond liberal and conservative, does this demographic actually exist? Where are they? Well as I said in my previous post, I think they exist because I have witnessed them, primarily among my theology professors. As they teach their own thoughts on religion, I recognize wisdom unsurpassed by the conservative or liberal scholars I have studied. Some of their surface level teachings may overlap with what I learned growing up, but the underlying reasoning is profoundly new.
I see traits of this third group in other seminal theologians besides my own professors, in men like Stanley Hauerwas who claim to be almost exactly what I am describing. While I respect progressive thinkers like Dale Martin, I am more impressed by the understanding of men like John Stackhouse who capitalize on liberal reasoning yet move beyond it. Again, thinkers like these are certainly lesser in number than those who can easily fit into one of the former categories since neomoderates likely require personal virtue on top of an intellectual journey.
Now the second part of my claim goes a little further and says that this demographic is generally smarter than the others. And since “open-mindedness” is the highest virtue you can ascribe to someone today, I’ll add that this group is generally more open-minded. Again, I back this up first by experience. The theologians mentioned thus far are generally the smartest people I know (or read)—intelligence permeates from them, knowledge but mainly wisdom. They are perceptive.
Certainly I’m biased—every disciple admires their teacher. But I think you can see the traits of this neomoderate demographic in some of the brightest individuals of history. I think foremost of George Washington, one who did not shy away from debate and intellectualism, but defaulted to noble action, moving beyond the partisan politics during the nation’s birth. I’d also throw individuals like Immanuel Kant, Thomas Aquinas, Jane Addams, and Thomas Sowell into the group. In addition, I think the late Pope Benedict would easily fit into this demographic (as well as Pope Francis, though liberals may not easily give him up). You may notice that most of the names just listed dabble in metaphysics of some sort, and I think that is because it is easier to move beyond the two pre-established groups when so much time is devoted to thought.
In this group I’ve termed neomoderates (though that hardly denotes all that it should), individuals question previous answers, but don’t reject for rejection’s sake—they see why the classical answers worked and when those answers don’t work, they try something new. In this, they demonstrate intellectual astuteness and ideological tolerance.
Lastly, I want to note that I have lavished this hypothetical group with high praise, yet I cannot claim to be a part of it. I am still far lost in my mind and unsure of too much to claim membership. Nevertheless, this other option gives me hope that we are not forever condemned to a bipartisan world.