Burke is one of the earliest conservative thinkers.
Thinks reason isn't as powerful as enlightenment thinkers do. Because of this, we are
limited in our understanding of the world.
Citizens are always of a certain historical period, and limited by wherever they were.
Understanding our period of history is important to understanding other things.
o Wants people to realize that things will work themselves out
o Custom and tradition are the way to go.
French Revolution in 1789 is a turning point
Attempt to put enlightenment ideas into action
o More than just a change of regime, but a fundamental change in the way society is
o Quite a lot of bloodshed
Ideals of freedom and equality were constantly referenced.
o Number of thinkers emerged who were critical of these principles; Burke was one of
Suspicious of any rationalist political theory, especially if it's one that will lead to the
destruction of an established order; abstract thinking is not being aware of the conditions of
If rationality can only go so far, then utopias are doomed to fail
We must find a way to protect ourselves from the worst rather than strive for the best
Calls the ideas surrounding the French revolution a "monstrous fiction" (pg 554)
o The men have unrealistic goals going into the french revolution and they will be
o No hope of eliminating inequality, so having people dream of it will make them
bitter; inequality is part of the universal order a things. They're not just not a problem,
but in the end they produce a better order.
o Order was created to benefit everyone, and if you are slaving away, then it is good for
you. The aristocrats aren't any happier.
Important ideas that must be taken importantly and addressed
o Says people must recognize what institutions do for us and we shouldn't change them;
if we do change them, they must be a gradual change, not a revolution.
Deism: the idea that you can achieve salvation on your own, and you can have a personal
relationship with God. As long as you're a good person and do what God says, that's all
that's needed to be saved.
o This would be opposed to the power of the Church because Catholicism requires
talking to God to somebody else deemed to be closer to God (high priests, pope, etc)
o This would mean that for those born out of the Catholic tradition, they would be
going to hell because they would not have been exposed to the Church; Burke is okay
with this because that is the natural order of things;