Edmund Burke on Rights

From Burke's Corner:

Tom Butler went on to talk about "the messy ambiguities" of making ethical decisions in society. Ideologies of left and right despise such messy ambiguities - they prefer ideological abstractions. Burke made this point against the Jacobins he confronted:

"The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature, or to the quality of his affairs ... The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes: and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned."


  1. "I have defended Natural Religion against a Confederacy of Atheists and Divines. I now plead for Natural Society against Politicians, and for Natural Reason against all three. When the World is in a fitter Temper than it is at present to hear Truth, or when I shall be more indifferent about its Temper; my Thoughts may become more publick. In the mean time, let them repose in my own Bosom, and in the Bosoms of such Men as are fit to be initiated in the sober Mysteries of Truth and Reason. My Antagonists have already done as much as I could desire. Parties in Religion and Politics make sufficient Discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober Man a proper Caution against them all. The Monarchic, Aristocratical, and Popular Partizans have been jointly laying their Axes to the Root of all Government, and have in their Turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

    (sorry I didn't mean to put this in your hegel thread)

  2. Anonymous10:43 PM

    Wow, we've come a long way since Burke.

    We now know that rights are reciprocal. If Person X thinks he has a right to do a certain thing to Person Y, then Person Y has exactly the same right to do that thing to Person X.

    Thus, if Mary thinks she has a right to give flowers to Bob, then Bob has the same right to give flowers to Mary.

    And if Senator Dirtbrain thinks he has a right to send an armed thug to seize Mary's money (calling this act "taxation") then Mary has an equal moral right to send an armed thug to seize Senator Dirtbrain's money.

  3. Bestquest, I think this falls under: "Ideologies of left and right despise such messy ambiguities - they prefer ideological abstractions."


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