So I’m out in her in Claremont for a conference on Strauss and Burke—or what Strauss says about Edmund Burke to close NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY.  For anyone who REALLY checks out what he says there, it’s the strangest part of a strange book.  Obvious points that might turn out to be wrong:  Burke is an evilthinker because the teaches that constitutions are grown—not made and because he lacks the conviction of the superiority of the philosophic life that should order the hierarchy of ends in the best regime and because he has an indefinite but real understanding of the flourishing of individuality that makes him fatally modern (or Lockean/Humean) and 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.  He insisted—often with genuinely righteous indignation—that his country limit its imperial pretensions with a genuinely moral concern for the flourishing of individuals and the preservation of the indigenous traditions that dignify personal ives.  He made the British empire better, and it would have been a lot better still had his view prevailed much more fully.  A lot of Strauss’ criticism of Burke seems to depend on reflections he wrote about the sublime and the beautiful when he was a very young man—or before he became a statesman, and so surely he distorts Burke’s thought (and knows it) by putting so much weight on them.   But all this might beside the point:  One view is that Strauss’s “subchapter” on Burke isn’t really about Burke at all.  More soon, as the discussion begins . . .

And I’m hearing here in California and everywhere else more than a hint of WALKERMANIA.  So again, Pete’s analysis is on the cutting edge of sophisticated Republican reflection.  I myself am not yet a WALKERMANIAC.

It’s no accident that YUVAL LEVIN, who ranks, of course, with Pete as our best nonlibertarian conservative these days, seems to be a card-carrying Burkean.

 

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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