About Claes Ryn

Claes G. Ryn is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. He is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. His books include Democracy and the Ethical Life, Will, Imagination and Reason, A Common Human Ground, America the Virtuous, and A Desperate Man. He is chairman of the National Humanities Institute, editor of Humanitas, and president of the Academy of Philosophy and Letters. He was named Honorary Professor at Beijing Normal University in 2012.

Imaginative Origins of Modernity: Life as Daydream & Nightmare

By |2019-02-18T02:20:40-06:00August 26th, 2018|Categories: Claes Ryn, Conservatism, Featured, Imagination, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Modernity, Philosophy, Timeless Essays|

Although modernity contains other and contrasting elements, it may be permissible to call the new type of person simply “modern man.” His demeanor is very different from that of premodern man. Far from discounting the opportunities of a worldly existence, this person entertains great expectations… Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers [...]

Political Philosophy and the Unwritten Constitution

By |2017-02-09T11:54:07-06:00December 20th, 2016|Categories: Claes Ryn, Constitution, Featured, Federalist Papers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau|Tags: |

To revive American constitutionalism would require not more people who talk about “justice,” “the common good,” and “the best regime,” but people who are able to shoulder concrete responsibilities, so that the reconstruction of society could begin where it matters most, in the personal lives of the citizens… Discriminating observers recognize that political practice in [...]

Not By Politics Alone: Arts and Humanities

By |2019-10-23T11:49:16-05:00April 4th, 2016|Categories: Art, Civilization, Claes Ryn, Culture, Featured, Timeless Essays|

Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords readers the opportunity to join Claes Ryn as he describes the effects that the arts and humanities have on society. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher That leading politicians wield great power nobody will deny. What is not so well understood is how limited that power is. Over time, [...]

What Was Irving Babbitt’s Philosophy of Man?

By |2016-07-14T23:47:19-05:00July 15th, 2015|Categories: Christian Humanism, Christianity, Claes Ryn, Irving Babbitt, Jean-Jacques Rousseau|Tags: |

No intellectual task could be more urgent today than refuting the pseudo-scientific distinction between ”facts” and “values” and restoring to the humanities and social sciences a sense of transcendent moral purpose.[1] In this effort we would be well-advised to reconsider the work of a great American whose ideas have yet to be fully comprehended and [...]

Idealism and the Constitution

By |2019-02-26T17:50:52-06:00November 23rd, 2014|Categories: Claes Ryn, Constitution, Featured, Imagination, Jean-Jacques Rousseau|Tags: |

For the framers of the U.S. Constitution no task seemed more important than to limit and tame power. The chief reason why they established a government of divided powers and checks and balances was their view of human nature, which was primarily Christian and classical. It seemed to them self-evident that human beings are morally [...]

Where is Conservatism Headed?

By |2014-11-25T19:07:44-06:00October 12th, 2014|Categories: Claes Ryn, Conservatism, Featured|

As this article will discuss the state and future of the so-called “conservative movement,” it is only fair to inform readers not familiar with the author’s views that he has long been a critic of prominent features of that movement. He has complained about its obsession with politics and its disproportionate interest in public policy [...]

Irving Babbitt and Philosophical Reason

By |2014-09-14T16:21:44-05:00September 14th, 2014|Categories: Claes Ryn, Imagination, Liberal Learning, Philosophy, Reason|

The intellectual power, originality and prescience of Irving Babbitt becomes with each passing decade more obvious. Scholars familiar with Babbitt’s work are used to noting the belated discovery by others of questions that he identified and treated in depth. Today’s “postmodernists,” for example, imagine themselves innovators. To the extent that their movement is philosophically serious [...]

Claes Ryn on The New Jacobinism

By |2014-06-10T18:25:16-05:00June 10th, 2014|Categories: Claes Ryn, Neoconservatism|

Imaginative Conservative senior contributor, Claes Ryn, recently discussed the pernicious influence of neo-conservatism—or the “New Jacobinism”—on the American republic. Click below to watch parts one and two of this video: “A conservative is normally somebody who is quite respectful of tradition because tradition is seen as providing importance guidance and support in our efforts to [...]

“The Conservative Mind” and America’s Historical Origins

By |2019-06-13T10:56:54-05:00October 27th, 2013|Categories: American Founding, Claes Ryn, Featured, Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind|

In 1953, when Russell Kirk published The Conservative Mind, the reigning and virtually uncontested view of America among scholars and other intellectuals was that from the beginning America represented a break with the ancient traditions of Europe. America was not weighed down by feudal and aristocratic social structures and was born out of enlightened, progressive ideas. It [...]

“An Education”: A Movie Out of the Ordinary

By |2016-07-26T15:32:53-05:00October 2nd, 2013|Categories: Claes Ryn, Culture, Film|Tags: |

Christianity and the classical heritage taught men and women to strive for a better life but to have modest hopes. The reason why we cannot look forward to a vastly improved worldly existence is that human beings—we ourselves in particular—are flawed creatures. We have to learn to deal with the consequences. We must not forget [...]

Where in the World Are We Going?

By |2017-11-30T10:12:05-06:00November 11th, 2012|Categories: Claes Ryn, Conservatism, Ideology|

First of all, a conservative is acutely aware of the flawed nature of man. The capacity of human reason is limited. Our existence is ultimately a great mystery. Conservatives recognize that for these reasons we need the best of the human heritage to help guide us. Within the so-called American conservative movement intellectual and political [...]

Democracy and Leadership: An American Classic

By |2015-02-17T22:41:16-06:00October 18th, 2012|Categories: Books, Claes Ryn, Irving Babbitt, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Leadership, Politics|Tags: |

Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt. Foreword by Russell Kirk, Liberty Classics, 1979, 390 pp. The appearance of a new edition of Irving Babbitt’s Democracy and Leadership (first published in 1924) is one sign among many that interest in this controversial thinker is growing markedly. Several scholarly studies related to his work have been published [...]

The Decline of American Intellectual Conservatism

By |2019-01-16T11:38:10-06:00October 24th, 2011|Categories: Claes Ryn, Conservatism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau|Tags: |

A quarter of a century ago Modern Age asked me to assess the state of American intellectual conservatism for its 25th anniversary issue.[1] I had been a student of the subject for twenty years. In 1971, five years before George Nash published The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, I and a co-author brought out a [...]

How Conservatives Failed “The Culture ”

By |2019-04-07T10:52:26-05:00October 10th, 2011|Categories: Claes Ryn, Conservatism, Culture, Featured, Film, Irving Babbitt, Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr.|Tags: |

Many supposedly intellectual conservatives seem to consider ideas and culture from afar, as it were, feeling no deep personal need for or intimate connection with them. Some are in a way attracted to the arts or even to philosophical speculation, but see no significant and immediate connection between these and the life of practice. Ideas and [...]

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