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Notes from Chapter 2 – Section 2

Edmund Burke’s collection of works are a source for collective conservative wisdom

– Kept England in check during the French Revolution and still has a strong influence in the world

– He is often written about by Liberal authors who think he just missed the point of the French Revolution

– He foresaw the destructive nature that radicals bring because he thought in long term dealings

“He habitually thought in terms of long-run tendencies and consequences. All the vaticinations of Burke have come to pass: the dissolution of nations into mere aggregations of individuals, the reapportionment of property by political machinery, the era of merciless war, the appearance of men on horseback to forge tyranny out of anarchy, the ghastly sickness of mortality and social decencies. Burke found the source of these terrors in the radical visions of revolutionary thinkers.” (24)

– He helped stop the fervor for revolution in a volatile England that kept it on its course

– The propaganda of French Revolution sparked it and Burke was determined to stop that in England

– He powered through Reflections and framed a book that refuted the “assumptions of egalitarianism” – it brought Hell on earth and he entered the metaphysical world to combat it head on – even though he disdained it so

“‘The moral state of mankind fills me with dismay and horrors. The abyss of Hell itself seems to yawn before me.'” (26)

Notes and Quotes from Edmund Burke

– He struck down the Rationalists, Romantics, and Utilitarians

“Edmund Burke’s conservative argument was a reply to three separate radical schools: the rationalism of the philosophes; the romantic sentimentalism of Rousseau and his disciples; and the nascent utilitarianism of Bentham. … Burke was quite aware of the hostility between the rationalism of Voltaire’s associates and the romantic idealism of Rousseau’s adherents; he assaulted both camps, although generally training his heavy guns upon Rousseau, ‘the insane Socrates.'” (26-27)

– He stripped John Locke down to the principles of government protecting private property so conservatism followed

18th century radicalism is about:

  1. If there is a divine authority, it is not like the God of Christians but that of deists or Rosseau
  2. Abstractions through reason or imagination can be used to shape society towards the ideal
  3. Man is naturally good and kind but is corrupted by institutions of the day
  4. Myth defines traditions leaving little to be learned
  5. Man is always improving so he should focus on the future and the goal of perfection
  6. Destruction of the political powers that bind man to creeds, oaths, and established must happen for man to “rejoice in pure liberty, unlimited democracy, self-governing, self-satisfying.” (27)

– Piety was his motivator for the preservation of the moral order of society

“He began and ended is campaign for the conservation of society upon the grand design of piety; in his reverent eyes, the whole of earthly reality was an expression of moral order.” (28)

  • Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001

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