Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lawler: "Edmund Burke and Leo Strauss"

By Peter Lawler here. A taste:
... Burke is an evilthinker because he teaches that constitutions are grown, not made; because he lacks the conviction of the superiority of the philosophic life that should order the hierarchy of ends in the best regime; because he has an indefinite but real understanding of the flourishing of individuality that makes him fatally modern (or Lockean/Humean); because he seems to rank imagination and sentiment higher than reason in understanding beauty and such; and because he facilitated the eradication of natural right by history or historicism. 
But, practically speaking, Burke was always right–about America, Ireland, India, and the French Revolution etc. ...


Tom Van Dyke said...

I agree. Burke is always right, but for the wrong reasons.

"Man, says Mr. Burke, cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. By an uncivil contradistinguished from a civil state, he must here mean a state of nature: by the rights of this uncivil state, he must mean the rights of nature: and is it possible that natural and civil rights cannot be enjoyed together? Are they really incompatible? Must our rights be removed from the stable foundation of nature, and placed on the precarious and fluctuating basis of human institution? Such seems to be the sentiment of Mr. Burke: and such too seems to have been the sentiment of a much higher authority than Mr. Burke -- Sir William Blackstone.---James Wilson

Bill Fortenberry said...

In my opinion, that's one of Wilson's best lectures, Tom. I particularly like the way that he framed the question at the beginning:

"What was the primary and the principal object in the institution of government? Was it ... to acquite new rights by a human establishment? Or was it, by a humann establishment, to acquire a new security for the possession or the recovery of those rights, to the enjoyment or acquisition of which we were previously entitled by the immediate gift, or by the unerring law, of our all-wise and all-beneficent Creator?"

This correlate well with Lawler's statement that: "The turn of the theoretical focus away from eternity and toward the individual or, better, person begins with Christianity." And Wilson's conclusion that "man does not exist for the sake of government, but government is instituted for the sake of man" is reminiscent of the words of the Founder of Chrisitianity that "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27) which is essentially to say that even the Law of God was made for the benefit of man rather than that man was made so that the Law would have someone to keep it.