G.A. Cohen on the conservative bias to retain what is of valuable, even in the face of replacing it by something of greater value
Conservative conviction, as I understand it, thereby exhibits a bias in favor of retaining what is of value, even in the face of replacing it by something of greater value (though not, therefore, in the face of replacing it by something of greater value no matter how much greater its value would be).
But there is a third idea, beyond preservation of the (intrinsically) valuable and the (personally) valued, in conservatism that warrants notice here, namely, the idea that some things must be accepted as given, that not everything can, or should, be shaped to our aims and requirements; the attitude that goes with seeking to shape everything to our requirements both violates intrinsic value and contradicts our own spiritual requirements.
Given things that are of value ought to be retained, but, beyond that, we need some things to be given quite apart from whether they have value other than because they are given. It is essential that some things should be taken as given: the attitude of universal mastery over everything is repugnant, and, at the limit, insane.
—Cohen (2012), Finding Oneself in the Other, “Chapter 8. Rescuing Conservatism: A Defense of Existing Value”