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Political correctness en version originale et en version française. Un malentendu révélateur

This I do not take to be the case of France, or of any other great country. Democracy as a mere form of government, then, would be sometimes, if only rarely, acceptable to Burke. The phrase concerning the place of the people in the order of delegation is interesting because it may refer to a Edition: current; Page: [ [xxiii] ] theory of the origin of political authority which was generally accepted in Late Scholasticism and was most elaborately presented by the sixteenth-century Jesuit Francisco Suarez. This authority consequently inheres in the first instance in the body politic or whole community.

But the community can and, for its own common good, normally will transfer its authority to a king or a body of men smaller than the whole.

La reconstruction de la raison

For Paine, once God had given man his original rights at the creation, His work was done. Men then were able to create political authority out of their own wills. But for Burke, the authority of even the people was a trust held from God. In God, however, will is always rational because His will is identical with His reason. The people, for their part, must make their will rational by keeping it in subordination to and conformity with the law of God. The law of God that Burke has in mind is not only or primarily His revealed law but the natural moral law, because it is a law that follows from the nature of man as created by God.

The Creator is. He who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its perfection—He willed therefore the state—He willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all perfection.


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There is an entire metaphysics implicit in this passage. God, as Creator, is the source of all being. The infinite fullness of His being, therefore, is the archetype of all finite being and becoming. All created beings reflect the goodness of their primary cause and tend toward their own full development or perfection by approaching His perfection, each in its own mode and within the limits of its potentialities. The state, as the necessary means of human perfection, must be connected to that original archetype.

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The end of the state, for Burke, is divinely set and in its highest reach is nothing less than the perfection of human nature by its virtue. The constitution of civil society was a convention whose shape and form was not a necessary conclusion Edition: current; Page: [ [xxv] ] drawn from principles of natural law. Nonetheless, society was natural in the sense of being the necessary and divinely willed means to achieve the perfection of human nature.

Houses are undeniably artificial works of human hands, but they are a natural habitat for men because they more adequately satisfy the needs of human nature than caves can do. Society, then, is indeed a contract, but not one to be regarded in the same light as a commercial contract that is entered into for a limited and self-interested purpose and can be dissolved at the will of the contracting parties. Paine could look upon human society as rather like a vast commercial concern, potentially worldwide in scope, that was held together by reciprocal interest and mutual consent.

Burke could not share this utilitarian view of society:. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary Edition: current; Page: [ [xxvi] ] and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. Because of the nature of its purposes, the contract of society has a character and a binding force that are different from those of ordinary contracts.

In a literal sense he was, of course, quite right. Men achieve their natural social goals only in history.

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The structures inherited from the past, if they have served and still serve those goals, are binding upon those who are born into them. These persons are not morally free to dismantle the structures at pleasure and to begin anew from the foundations. For the goals in question are not those alone of the collection of individuals now present on earth, but also those of human nature and of God.

The constitution of a society, conventional and historically conditioned though it is, becomes a part of the natural moral order because of the ends that it serves.

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Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primaeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place.

This law is not subject to the will of those, who by an obligation above them, and infinitely superior, are bound to submit their will to that law. That moral order furnishes a law to which civil societies as well as individuals are obliged to conform. But are people never free to change the constitution and their government?

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Burke does not quite say that. Included in his concept of constitution was the whole corporate society to which he was devoted. Nonetheless, he could not and did not deny that a revolution was sometimes necessary. He only insisted that it could not be justified but by reasons that were so obvious and so compelling that they were themselves part of the moral order:.

It is the first and supreme necessity only, a necessity that is not chosen but chooses, a necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits no discussion, and demands no evidence, which alone can justify a resort to anarchy. This necessity is no exception to the rule; because this necessity itself is a part too of that moral and physical disposition of things to which man must be obedient by consent or force. But if that which is only submission to necessity should be made the object of choice, the law is broken, nature is disobeyed, and the rebellious are outlawed, cast forth, and exiled, from this world of reason, and order, and peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into the antagonist world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and unavailing sorrow.

One may think that here Burke has gone beyond rhetoric into rhapsody. Yet the lines of his argument are clear enough.

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Burke was, indeed, uninterested in the workings of the Divine power. He was, it is true, a practicing politician, not a philosopher, and in these two works he wrote Edition: current; Page: [ [xxix] ] a polemic, not a dispassionate treatise on political theory. But his polemic included the presentation of a countertheory to the theory he was attacking.

The countertheory depended in turn on explicitly stated premises of a moral and metaphysical nature.

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The premises are expounded, one must admit, in rhetorical language, especially in the Reflections. They assume the superiority of reason or intellect to will in both God and man. Part of this universe is the natural moral order based on the nature of man as created by God. Since civil society is necessary to the attainment of that perfection, it too is natural and willed by God.

The authority of the state derives from the rational and moral ends that it is intended by nature to serve. Consent plays a role in the formation of the state and the conferral of its authority on government, since both involve human acts of choice. But the obligation to form a civil society is prior to consent, and, for those born under a constitution, consent to the constitution is commanded by the previous obligation to obey a government that is adequately serving the natural goals of society. But the basic political right is the right to be governed well, not the right to govern oneself.

In this volume, the pagination of E. Cross references have been changed to reflect the pagination of the current edition. The use of double punctuation e. Moves to London to study law in Inns of Court, abandons it for a literary career.

Publishes A Vindication of Natural Society, a satire on Enlightenment political and religious reasoning. Rockingham dismissed as Prime Minister after achieving repeal of Stamp Act that inflamed the American colonies. Elected Member of Parliament for city of Bristol, delivers classic speech on the independence of a representative. Delivers Speech on American Taxation, criticizing British policy of taxing the colonies. Delivers Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies. Because of opposition, withdraws from election at Bristol.

Is elected M. In November, publishes Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke criticizes failure to prosecute the war vigorously in Observations on the Conduct of the Ministry and Remarks on the Policy of the Allies. Burke defends his public life in A Letter to a Noble Lord. The famous letter or pamphlet contained in this volume represents the workings of an extraordinary mind at an extraordinary crisis: and can therefore be compared with few things that have ever been spoken or written.

Composed in a literary age, it scarcely belongs to literature; yet it is one of the greatest of literary masterpieces. It embodies nothing of history save fragments which have mostly lost their interest, yet no book in the world has more historical significance. It scorns and defies philosophy, but it discloses a compact and unique system of its own. It tramples on logic, yet carries home to the most logical reader a conviction that its ill-reasoning is substantially correct.

No one would think of agreeing with it in the mass, yet there are parts to which every candid mind will assent. Its many true and wise sayings are mixed up with extravagant and barefaced sophistry: its argument, with every semblance of legal exactness, is disturbed by hasty gusts of anger, and broken by chasms which yawn in the face of the least observant reader. It is an intellectual puzzle, not too abstruse for solution: and hence few books are better adapted to stimulate the attention and judgment, and to generate the invaluable habit of mental vigilance. To discover its defects is easy enough.

After a time, this impression disappears; eloquence and deep conviction have done their work, and the wisdom of a few pages, mostly dealing in generalities, is constructively extended to the whole. But the reader now vacillates again: and this perpetual alternation of judgment on the part of a reader not thoroughly in earnest constitutes a main part of that fascination which Burke universally exercises.

It is like the Edition: orig; Page: [ vi ] fascination of jugglery: now you believe your eyes, now you distrust them: the brilliancy of the spectacle first dazzles, and then satisfies: and you care little for what lies behind. This is what the author intended: the critical faculty is disarmed, the imagination is enthralled. What did Burke propose to himself when he sat down to write this book?


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