May 20, 2014


Russell Kirk and The Making of The Conservative Mind (Henry Regnery, 5/19/14, Imaginative Conservative)

For Russell Kirk, conservatism begins with Edmund Burke; one can say, in fact, that for him, the teachings of Burke comprise the basic principles of conservatism. In any practical sense," Kirk asserts, Burke is the founder of our conservatism." The opening chapter of The Conservative Mind, "Burke and the Politics of Prescription," quite appropriately, therefore, is devoted to the thought of Kirk's teacher, and with an eloquence of language worthy of the great Whig himself, under such headings as Providence and humility, Prejudice and prescription, Equality and aristocracy, The Principle of order, Kirk sets before us the principles of conservatism as developed by Edmund Burke. "Edmund Burke's conservative philosophy was a reply to three separate radical schools: the rationalism of the philosophes; the romantic sentimentalism of Rousseau and his disciples; and the nascent utilitarianism of Bentham,"[4] but it was a philosophy derived from a deep sense of piety and a profound understanding of the sources of order. Now and again," Kirk tells us, "Burke praises two great virtues, the keys to private contentment and public peace: they are prudence and humility, the first preeminently an attainment of classical philosophy, the second preeminently a triumph of Christian discipline. Without them, man must be miserable; and man destitute of piety hardly can perceive either of these rare and blessed qualities."[5]

Russell Kirk sees Burke's accomplishment, "taken as a whole," as "the definition of a principle of order," and he states Burke's position, "in the simplest terms," as he says, in the following paragraph:

Revelation, reason, and an assurance beyond the senses tell us that the Author of our being exists, and that He is omniscient; and man and the state are creations of God's beneficence. This Christian orthodoxy is the kernel of Burke's philosophy. God's purpose among men is revealed through the unrolling of history. How are we to know God's mind and will? Through the prejudices and traditions which millenniums of human experience with Divine means and judgments have implanted in the mind of the species. And what is our purpose in this world? Not to indulge our appetites, but to render obedience to Divine ordinance.

Posted by at May 20, 2014 8:53 PM

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