The classic conservative critique of liberal and indeed progressive thought more generally is to accuse it of abstraction, of being seduced by the perfect solvent of pure reason, and finding that, under its influence, all that is solid melts into air, including the capacity to apply the solvent in the first place. Burke, whom it is probably sensible to regard as the first proper conservative, unleashed a potent anti-rationalist rhetoric on the common sense of Tom Paine, and the idea that the diligent application of reason to all aspects of our lives might strip the world of meaning, demystify it, leave us alienated, has been a constant trope of conservative and quasi-conservative thought since. Hegel, Weber and Durkheim made use of it in some form or another, as does Arendt, and it reappears in the communitarian critique of Rawlsian liberalism, the focus of which is on the need for particular ethical practices to give shape not only to our personal but also to our political lives, rather than the allegedly universalistic foundations of liberalism. In this particular form, Blimpish responds to my comments on his (?) discussion with Jarndyce at the Sharpener, imputing to liberalism abstraction in a variety of forms, but most notably perhaps individualism and universalism.
I think the communitarian critique generally misses the point: whilst MacIntyre's ethics are convincing, the crude psychological reductionism in his attacks both on Rawls and Nozick does him no credit at all whilst, unfortunately, striking me as not being so far off typical of the tone which communitarians adopted when criticising Rawls and other liberals. However, there is a truth in the conservative critique outlined here: pure reason cannot be applied to everything, at risk of undermining itself. The problem for conservatives, politically at least, is that liberals don't actually do this - which is, perhaps, another debate - but epistemologically, they have a point. At least since the linguistic turn, and perhaps before - Kant, the archetypical abstract analytical philosopher, did write a book called the 'Critique of Pure Reason', after all -Von Neurath's metaphor of rebuilding a boat whilst at sea has been taken very seriously: to apply reason to reason itself, or indeed to any body or practice of knowledge as a whole simultaneously, would be to misunderstand how the critique based on reason proceeds. Unless we have something solid, some yardstick by which to measure our beliefs against as they undergo that critique, it does become a kind of philosopher's stone, since a critique which doubts everything can have no standard of success, and hence will judge all unworthy. It can have no standard of success because anything which aspires to become a standard of success can itself be subjected to the question, in an infinite regress of corrosive doubt. Of course, even the standard of reason itself can fall under suspicion in this way, and once it has, there is little that can be done to save it: the philosopher's stone becomes a black hole which eventually collapses into nothingness. This anti-foundationalist impulse that not everything can be put to the question at once is the truth in conservatism. I'm skeptical of there being any other truth, but open to persuasion.