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Oct 19

The Road Less Traveled: The "Conservative" Politics and Philosophy of Robert Frost

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

The most celebrated American poet of the 20th Century is Robert Frost, who spoke at President John F. Kennedy's 1960 inaugural and wrote such famous lines as: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." 

While it is generally assumed that Frost was a Kennedy liberal, he was in fact a "Madisonian-Washingtonian-Jeffersonian Democrat" whose deep suspicion of ideology and ardent love of the individual suffused his poetry and essays.  Frost was particularly critical of Franklin's Roosevelt New Deal with its attempted concentration of executive and legislative power.  He was even more opposed to the totalitarian methods of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, Peter Stanlis has written a brilliant book, based on a personal friendship and correspondence of 23 years with the poet and more than five decades of scholarship.  Stanlis argues that you cannot fully appreciate Frost's poetry unless you understand his philosophy which rejected "monism" - the idea that reality can be explained with a single principle like materialism - and embraced "dualism," the idea that reality is based on pairs of principles like good and evil, spirit and matter.  For Frost, politics is a branch of ethics, not of science, and has to be tested by its practical consequences for man and society.

Stanlis's landmark book, remarks the poet Timothy Steele, supplies a fascinating account of the road less traveled by artists and thinkers like Robert Frost, who try to harmonize the many polarities of our lives. 

More About the Speakers

Peter Stanlis, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Emeritus,
Rockford College

Hosted By

Lee Edwards, Ph.D. Lee Edwards, Ph.D.

Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics Read More