Influential Conservative Philosophers

Influential Conservative Philosophers

Selecting just five influential conservative philosophers can be a tricky task. Conservatism has several factions, each of which is stuck on its core principles. Despite these differences, however, conservatives are unified by a fundamental concept, which is the firm, unwavering belief in traditional values and attitudes.

Judging on this premise, below are five great influential conservative philosophers who paved the way for today’s generations.

Confucius (551–479 BC)

In Asia, Confucius was known as The Model Sage For Ten Thousand Ages for hundreds of years. He was the pioneer of permanence, which famous modern conservatives like T. S. Elliot and Russell Kirk later expanded. 

Confucius lived by the concept “wu-ch’an,” translated as the “five norms.” These norms were: 

  • Jen, meaning “humaneness;”
  • I, meaning “righteousness;”
  • li, meaning “ceremony,” “proper behavior,” and “ritual”;
  • Chih, denoting “sagacity,” “wisdom;”
  • lastly, Hsin, meaning “trustworthiness.”

He preached social duty, humility, studiousness, modesty, and honesty. He also emphasized the family, how it should act—and the importance of maintaining the norms of society. In his famous work, “The Analects,” he cited the Golden rule “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

Confucius preached social equity and impartial justice, two principles unfamiliar to Feudalism. As such, Chinese communists vehemently opposed his teachings and did all they could to discourage his followership. Thankfully, Confucianism is now much more appreciated and encouraged in modern-day China.

Radical female movements, like feminism, however, criticize Confucius. The modern woman disagrees with his thinking that a woman should be solely allegiant to her father, husband, and son. The argument is that Confucius does not allow women the freedom or the right to be. 

Regardless of this, the influence of Confucius on Asia cannot be disregarded. 

John Locke (1632–1704)

John Locke was a highly influential enlightenment philosopher. He founded the Social Contract, which was the fundamental rule of coexisting in ancient times. The Social Contract decreed that members of a society must live and work peacefully and consciously. In the event of default by any member, the others reserved the right to punish him or dissolve the union.

Locke is a popular figure among all political views. 

  • The conservatives consider him to be the beginning of conservatism as he was the first to propound that human nature is innate, just like some fundamental values. 
  • Liberalism is believed to have sprouted from his theory of liberal epistemology, which is “how we know what we know.” He is, therefore, assumed the “father of liberalism.”
  • Lastly, the Libertarians like Locke’s perception of government and property. Jon championed the rule of law, thereby helping to limit government tyranny. He spoke up against unjust acquisition of properties, and argued that property can only be acquired by working for it. 

In 1689, John Locke defended the English Declaration of Rights, thereby advocating for the right to carry arms, the right of free speech, and kicking against taxation without representation. Nearly a century later, this defense would be a defining factor in the accomplishment of these rights. Several political thinkers agree that the American Revolution was spearheaded by conservatism. 

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Edmund Burke was the “father of modern conservatism.” He was an Irish philosopher. He was, however, against idealistic enlightenment. Burke saw faults in fundamental human reasoning. He condemned democracy but encouraged a society built on segregation and monarchy. 

Burke believed that both State and Church are intertwined. He said that a sole source divinely inspired the two. He felt that the core intrinsic values of virtue that were described in tradition, religion, folklore, and myth supported the conventional way of governance. 

Burke believed in “slow government” instead of the usual “small government.” He pushed for a system of governance without pretense and arrogance and believed in reforms or modifications in place of radicalism and revolution.

Burke disapproved of the notion that absolute freedom led to personal or social happiness. Yet, he never advocated for injustice or misuse of power. He kicked strongly against slavery, oppression, and exploitation. One such campaign was against the activities of the East Indian Company in India. 

Many hated Burke for his views. A notable mention is Tom Paine, a famous American revolutionary who described him as “the defender of the privileged and the foe of freedom.” Later on, however, landmark politicians like Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt admired Burke and his philosophy. 

Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BC)

Popularly called “Cato The Elder,” Marcus defended the Republican values of civic virtue and antagonized Julius Caesar. Cato firmly spoke against the Hellenic (Greek) culture due to their luxurious lifestyle, which he believed was threatening Rome’s identity. Cato preached that one should know oneself and yet restrain oneself.

He consistently called for the destruction of Carthage, which was Rome’s major trading rival. His favorite phrase was “Carthago delenda est,” meaning “Carthage must be destroyed.” He was a strong-willed watchdog as well, ensuring that all candidates vying for public offices were responsible and able.

Interestingly, Cato’s Institute in Washington, DC, was not based on his name. Instead, it was to acknowledge a string of 144 influential political essays penned by Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard in the 1800s. This series was known as “Cato’s Letters” and themed on Cato himself.

Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804)

Hamilton was arguably the best nationalist and conservative among America’s Founding Fathers. He engineered the Bank of America to allow liquidity in financial markets, established the Federalist Party, and wrote over 50% of The Federalist Papers. He cleared all state and federal government loans by setting up a Treasury that covered them all. 

Hamilton was highly influential in America’s conservatism. It would take a complete book to write out every one of his achievements. He was a top attorney in New York.


Conservatism is a political line of thinking that believes in the core principles guiding a society. Conservatives preserve these values and rigidly oppose to any unnecessary change. This has stemmed from the works of countless influential conservative philosophers in history. There will be more discussions on this topic in subsequent posts. 


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Jun 29, 2020 - -

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