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Notes from Chapter 2 – Section 3

– Burke believed that the State was a reflection of the moral state of the people

“Burke turned in this matter [Rosseau’s false morality], as in most, to prescription and precedent, old materials ready to the true reformer’s hand, to supply this opposing morality which might heal the wounds inflicted by revolutionary moral doctrines.” (29)

“Rejecting the notion of a world subject only to sudden impulse and physical appetite, he expounded the idea of a world governed by strong and subtle purpose.” (29)

– God created man and institutions to show us our purpose through “Revelation, reason, and assurance beyond the senses”.

“Revelation, reason, and an assurance beyond the senses tell us that the Author of our being exists, and that He is omniscient; and man and the state are creations of God’s beneficence.” (29)

“How are we to know God’s mind and will? Through the prejudices and traditions which millennia of human experience with divine means and judgments have implanted in the mind of the species. And what is our purpose in the world? Not to indulge our appetites, but to render obedience to divine ordinance.” (29)

– Today we think society can be run by science and many attack Burke for his conservation methods

– Man has rejected the divine order in favor of a worldly divinity – reason – to run his politics

– Burke was indignant that so many in his time would cast off the faith which had long proven itself

“Either order in the cosmos is real, or all is chaos. If we are adrift in chaos, then the fragile egalitarian doctrines and emancipating programs of the revolutionary reformers have no significance; for in a vortex of chaos, only force and appetite signify.” (30)

Notes and Quotes from Edmund Burke

– If there is no higher order, then contracts and duties are void and useless because they’re only executed at the whim of man.

“We have obligations to mankind at large, which are not in consequence of any special voluntary pact. They arise from the relation of man to man, and the relation of man to God, which relations are not a matter of choice…” (31)

– “Obedience to the moral order” is the purpose of man and any philosopher who seeks to expand on that only wastes time and creates a division among men.

– If no higher order for morality, then man uses the shallow “reason”, “enlightenment”, and “pity” to guide him and justice/purpose are lost and with it knowledge and charity.

– Burke clung to the divine order, but wasn’t rendered through religion, but by the Divine – didn’t believe that religion was a mere construct to save man from anarchy

– A higher purpose drove his thinking of society

“Politics and morals, Burke saw, are deduced from belief or skepticism; men never really succeed in convincing themselves of the reality of things supernatural merely to sustain things natural.” (32)

– Burke’s faith is what lead him to express a reverence for the established order

– Every state has a divine inspiration and every creed is seeking to recognize a divine purpose

– Those that serve in government should aspire to reflect a higher being and should look to making wise and lasting decisions rather than seek shallow praise for something seen as good in the moment

– Burke’s faith was tied to ideas of man being honorable and aspiring to do good for society – to understand how reforms and decisions impact it

– Striving for man made equality is foolish given the divine order – are are all equal in our morality, decisions and ultimate judgement before God

– Sin is a very real thing that cannot be taken away and man perfected through “legislation or revolution”

– Burke sought for man to express faith in every part of society – to strive for a kingdom of God on earth

– Religion is far superior to any rationality and its laws

“‘All human laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they may alter the mode and application, but have no power over the substance of original justice’” (36)

Notes and Quotes from Edmund Burke

– Our laws derive from an imperfect moral man

– Sins cause our griefs and trials which cannot be legislated away by naturally immoral people

– Evil is not merely the name who expresses it but the vice or ideology they seek to co-opt – evil is innate

– Providence and Humility are the keys to societal happiness as expressed at the individual level

“For solitary man in search of spiritual peace, for society in search of permanent order, Providence has furnished means by which mankind may apprehend this moral universe. Tradition and prescription are the guiding lights of the civil social man; and therefore Burke elevates to the dignity of social principles those conventions and customs which, before the eighteenth century, most men accepted with an unreflecting confidence.” (37)

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

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