OPINIONS A U:\S~7nOn Nisbet: A DuologuenRobert Nisbet: Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary; Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA.nMan-of-the-World Conservatismnby James HitchcocknIhe first question that should be asked about this book isnwhy it was written. The subtitle is somewhat misleading in thatnthe contents are a mere 70 topics, hardly a dictionary in the fiillnsense. But the first word ofthe title suggests the purpose. At theninvitation of Harvard University Press, the distinguished socialntheorist Robert Nisbet here offers his mature opinions on anvariety of subjects of his own choosing. It is an invitation fewnwriters could resist, permitting as it does even the mostnoutrageous expressions of personal predilection on a variety ofnonly loosely connected subjects, each of which could be a booknin itself.nIt presumes a good deal to think that general readers are interestednin a writer’s mere prejudices. Thus in evaluating thenbook it is first necessary to ask whether it is worth the money.nThe answer is yes, because what is offered are the ripe reflectionsnof one of our premier social thinkers, a man who has spentnover 40 years meditating on our changing world. Even when henis wholly wrong, he is always interesting, provocative, andngracefiil in style.nThe word “prejudice” is here used in Edmund Burke’s sensenof a firmly held opinion about the world which does not rest onnrational foundations alone but which is not therefore irrational.nIt is the kind of belief that orients the individualntowards the world, which permitsnhim to act decisively in situationsnwhere reason alone provides no surenguidance. Since Nisbet is one of thenbetter-known “neoconservatives” (perhapsnthe prefix is unnecessary in his case),nmany of his topics are predictable. Thosensharing his opinions will savor his wittynand incisive summaries of subjects includingncommunity, crime and punishment,nenvironmentalism, futurology,nhuman rights, judicial activism, permissiveness,npublic opinion, tyranny,nand victimology. But there are also somenunexpected entries on what is a short listnas dictionaries go—boredom, chain ofncontinued on page 11nDr. Hitchcock is professor of history at St.nLouis University. His most recent book isnWhat Is Secular Humanism?n6 MiHMMMHdiEiiinChronicles of CttltttrennnHonoring the Thinkablenby Leopold Tyrmandn<<1nH ere lies wisdom,” says Professor Nisbet, pointing tonthe body of thought and attitudes which some may call conservativenand others may not, but which everybody will agreenneeds a name. He is right. Yet he believes that the codificationnof that wisdom, those holy scrolls—from which we are capablenof inheriting, culling, and enjoying invaluable, correct principlesnand insights—are doomed to defeat, if not oblivion.nWhether he’s right or wrong is hard to tell: a lament can benpoignant without being convincing. In this instance it takes thenform of a volume of portable Nisbet. It is a fair achievement of anlifetime of distingue scholarly enterprises by a learned and civilnmind endowed with poise and taste. The tome has a marvelousntitle. Prejudices, which in this case is an apologia of a word: itndefends the right to intellectual sympathies and impulses thatncoincide with mature, responsible measurements of rationality,nsubtly refined components of ideologies. It also reaffirmsnthe shallowness of middlebrow conformism by proving thatnwords which are routinely discredited by commonplace mentalities—andnsuch practices abound in the reigning culturalnambience of our time—actually are sources of forgotten rectitudes.nFinally, Prejudices composes itself into a seminalnparadox, or challenge, in the context of its subtide: A PhilosophicalnDictionary. Does that indicatenthat Mr. Nisbet has become an encyclopedist?nIf so, aren’t the noun and notionnof “prejudice” anathema among lesnphilosophes? To Diderot, “prejudice”nwas a hate word, a call to vehement rejectionncarrying a connotation like that ofntoday’s “fascism” or “terrorism.” To Mr.nNisbet, however, it is a source of wistfulnsagacities; it is also a key to insightfulnopinions that have been mused uponnthrough the years, as well as to knowledge,nto history, and to some glimpsesninto the human condition.nSo where do we go from here, havingndiscovered so many indicators in thentide? If we’re heading toward a confrontationnwith the 18th-century axiomsnwhich, among other things good andnMr. Tyrmand is editor o/Chronicles ofnCulture.n