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Burke and his beliefs; in line with or against Rousseau?

November 10, 2010

When dealing with issues present in Burke’s reading, one may ask the question of what is Burke’s underlying belief. What is it that Burke is trying to get across and how is he trying to do so? Burke focuses on conservatism, on the meaning behind tradition and the need to go back to religious roots. When reading Burke, one can realize the stark difference between the opinion of Rousseau and of his own. Rousseau believes that everything changes through time and that one needs to govern and achieve order through adaptive behavior. Burke believes that even though time passes and new things occur, one needs to go back to the words of God and follow what is morally considered acceptable. Burke’s beliefs truly point to the idea of respecting history and the institutions that everything is founded based on. While Burke respects tradition, he also acknowledges modern change and evolution. He believes that a change in a man and a change within a society happen through the process of change along with the tradition of old. When he addresses the wisdom of individuals, he accredits the knowledge held within a person to the innate tradition held within. While some may believe that Burke and Rousseau are in complete opposition, some question whether they are in some ways similar.


One Comment
  1. hummberto permalink
    November 10, 2010 3:20 PM

    I’d say that overall, Burke and Rousseau don’t coincide on too many points. Rousseau’s ideas are what are credited for sparking revolutionary thought that influenced the French Revolution an American Revolution. Burke in his Reflections denounces the French Revolution, claiming that it wasn’t necessary and that they destroyed an traditional monarchy, an institution that had been proven to be effective throughout history.
    Rousseau is against institution, claiming that once we enter society, we encounter reason. Reason is what creates the separation between the state of nature and society to Rousseau. It allows us to undermine pity and have more needs because of a greater outside dependance on government. In Rousseau’s state of nature, we are independent, and have limited needs besides our basic necessities.
    Seeing how Burke is pro-tradition and pro-institutions, I’d say that Rousseau and Burke are very disimilar. Burke also, does not acknowledge modern growth as much as you’d suspect. He is quoted as saying, “A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views” (p. 503).
    A better meeting of the supernatural political thinkers would consist of Burke and Locke, I think. Locke is very liberal, which opposes Burke’s conservatism, but Locke still, in his Second Treatise, believes that even if your government rebels and breaks the social contract, rebellion is still not the answer. Locke believes that the governed should allow things to work itself out, to avoid a state of war after eliminating the monarch. Burke and Locke both oppose rebellion, even though they stand on different ends of the political road. This is a point I find very interesting.

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