So having spent the last several weeks talking about three enlightenment traditions, namely utilitarianism, marxism and the social contract, today we're gonna turn to the reaction against the enlightenment. And as with the traditions we've looked at until now we're gonna start with a classic statement of anti-enlightenment thinking, and then bring it up to the present, with more recent formulations and more contemporary applications and see what's really at stake for us today in anti-enlightenment thinking. And the anti-enlightenment thinker we're gonna start with perhaps the most famous critic of the enlightenment is the Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke. And he lived in the 18th century and wrote extensively on many aspects of government but when I say Edmund Burke what comes to mind? >> I remember the British parliament and the advocate of the property rights. >> An advocate of property rights, what comes to mind with you? >> Not much. >> You're lost. >> Yeah. >> Okay, well he was a conservative. So let's start there. When I say the word conservative, what comes to mind? >> Well, I was raised in the US, so I think traditional conservative beliefs in America we have social, religious, and fiscal conservatives, and they all have their own place in our political lexicon, so. >> Okay, and what about libertarian beliefs of the sort that we talked about in connection with Nozick is that conservative? >> It's pretty conservative, yeah, but it's much more focused on individual rights and not necessarily is conservatism in America. >> Okay, so Libertarians often think of themselves as conservatives, but I think your instinct is right that when we're starting to talk about Burke we're talking about a different kind of conservatism. Something that's focusing on tradition, inherited rights and practices, ways of doing things that have stood the test of time and attributing importers to them for that very fact. And I think that one way to sum this up is to say, and this is very much in the spirit of hostility to the enlightenment, that this traditionalist conservatism in some ways isn't a theory at all. It's an outlook, it's a disposition, it's an attitude toward life, indeed, I think as you'll see and once we dig into it. Part of it is born out of deep skepticism of the very idea of theories of politics. So with respect to our two enlightenment ideas this is hostility to science. Born of, as Burk would have put it, that most important thing for us to know is how little we know. That most of the time we are muddled, we're confused, what we think is the case is not the case. What we think causes things, doesn't cause them, and what, most importantly, what, if we intervene and change things what's gonna happen is very unlikely to be what we actually expect to happen. Why would you think, writing when he did, in this, the most important work that we are gonna talk about was published in 1790? Why would you think he would be so concerned with those issues? What had just happened in 1790? Across the Channel, what had just happened on the other side of the English Channel? >> The French Revolution? >> The French Revolution had happened in 1789. And the full force of the terror that was gonna open up in 1791 through the next couple of years hadn't yet happened. But the French Revolution was about wiping the slates clean, starting over getting rid of the regime. Rebuilding societies from scratch and that's what traumatized him more than anything else. So we'll come back to what he said about the French Revolution in a minute. And so he's deeply hostile to science and then he's also hostile to the idea that the individual is the center of the universe. That the individual is the center of things, that we should think about society say as what an individual would create. We saw in the utilitarian tradition that they always said utility operates at the level of the individual psychology. In Marxism we saw even thought he talks about classes, classes are defined by the way individuals relate to the means of production. And of course in the social contract, it's what would you agree to, what contract would you make, right? It's all about the individual, the individual rights bearer whether it's rights that they get out of natural law or out of some content theory of universalizability. It's the individual is the center of things. Burke wants to say no, we should think not about what I'm entitled to in some inherited sense but what is expected of me? That is, you come into a situation, and the first question you ask is not, what is this gonna do for me, but, what am I supposed to do? This is triggering some thought in your mind. >> Oh yeah, well, both these sayings do. On the first one this hostility to science is very Aristotelian. Well, I think it was Aristotle who'd said, all I know is that I know nothing. And then the second one, this what am I entitled to, that's Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you. >> There you go, so you're anticipating me with Kennedy. And you're certainly right in that both Plato and Aristotle, who we didn't really study in this course, they certainly had the view that human knowledge is supremely limited and we need to come to grips with that fact. But the enlightenment was all about the way science was gonna empower us to transcend that. So the counter enlightenment or the anti-enlightenment is about rejecting it. So Burke would have been very open to an Aristotelian of the science of politics by all means. And certainly the famous phrase from Kennedy's inaugural of 1960 that you quoted and I put up there. It's very much a traditionalist I think part of Kennedy trying to persuade the suspicions of conservatives the wasn't this new 60's me generation person. But that commitment to the national agenda and commitment to national purpose should trump what it is that we as individuals want. So these ideas have resonance both backward and forward and we'll talk more about that resonance as we go on. So, partly because Burke's view is an outlook rather than a theory, I'm 'gonna have to just read you a few passages to give you the flavor of the outlook because I can't reduce it to bullet points. It defies that by its very nature. I will say going in as I mentioned a minute ago that his reflections on the Revolution in France, which he published in 1790, were a response to a radical person by the name of Richard Price, who was a big fan of Of radical politics and particularly English radical politics. Though he was a fan of the French revolution. He had formed a society to commemorate the English revolution of 1688. Which by the way troubled Burke much less because he thought that was a small palace affair. Where they replaced a king, but they hadn't swept away all of the institutions of British politics in a way that the French revolutionaries had. And the other thing, just a footnote if we had more time, we would have spent a class talking about Tom Paine. Whose famous book, The Rights of Man, was a response to Burke. Paine had been a friend of Burke's, and he thought Burke went off the deep end by opposing the French Revolution. Paine of course was a huge fan of the French Revolution. So that gives you some context, but I think the most important point to make about Burke's view of the world, of the human condition is conjured up in this image. You see this person opens up the door and is doing what? >> Looking into darkness of the room. >> Looking into a very dark room, right? We're fumbling in the dark. That's the most important thing to understand about the human condition. We really for the most part, you can make up many metaphors, fumbling in the dark or another one might be we're corks bobbing on the ocean. We have very little understanding or grasp of the forces that shape societies and how much we can influence them, right? So consider this that he says in stark opposition to the enlightenment aspiration. Burke says the science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it or reforming it, is like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science. Because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate. But that which in the first instance is prejudicial, may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects that it produces in the beginning. So something that looks like its harmful in the beginning actually might have good effects later. And he goes on to say in the next paragraph after the one I just put up there that the reverse can be true. Things that look as though they're going well, we might be kind of sawing off the branch we're sitting on and they may have deleterious effects later. And that being the case, for Burke one of the most important political values was caution. We should be prudent. We should be careful. We shouldn't do anything lightly. The science of government being, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be. Is for that reason infinite caution. Infinite caution, taking literally that means caution to the point of inactivity, but let's chalk that up to hyperbole. He doesn't think we should never do anything, but he's really saying we should err on the side of conservatism. It's with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice. Again, he's thinking of the revolution across in France. Pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society. Things that are tried and tested and have endured through the ages should command our respect. Just by virtue of the fact that they've done that. So caution is a very important principle for him, and we should never ever stray very far from trying to change things. So we talked about this as conservatism. And by conservatism he doesn't mean literally what might be conjured up by that phrase infinite caution. He says here, for instance, in a more memorable quotation, he says, a good patriot, and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most out of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. A disposition to preserve, you want to preserve things. And an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else in vulgar in the conception and perilous in the execution. So, he's again, thinking of the architects there of the French Revolution. And he's thinking the people who think they know how to remake society from scratch are the ones we should be most afraid of. The people who believe that they can do it are deceiving, not only the rest of us, but even themselves. And they are going to be the most dangerous of all. So I want to just pause for a minute to make the point that conservatives in this sense are not reactionaries. When I say reactionary what do I mean by reactionary? What's a reactionary? >> Those are the forces from the past, dark forces. And it's much darker condition than being conservative. >> Darker condition, okay. Well, when I say to you, well, what's a political reactionary? >> Well I'd just give it an analogy. I mean, if I'm sitting here, I'm not gonna do anything unless I'm poked directly. Unless something is pressing and there's some sort of an emergency, you're really not gonna do much. >> If you are prodded, what are you gonna do? >> [LAUGH] Maybe wait to get prodded a second time? Okay. And then, what are you gonna do? >> Then you'll do something. >> What? >> React. >> React. So, the idea of a reactionary is people who you'd react by, trying to get rid of whatever's prodding it, right? So, reactionaries are generally thought of people who literally are opposed to all change. And conservatives are not. Another famous conservative, Sir Robert Peel, more or less Burke's generation, I think gave a very succinct definition of conservatism of the Burkian sort, when he said we should think of conservatives as people who change what they must change in order to secure what they can. So it's not this idea of resisting all change. You have to have a lot of caution about change but what is supposed to motivate your openness to change is this idea of conservation, right? Because mostly we want to conserve the tried and true principles that have governed us that are inherited from the past. And we do adapt, but slowly, and carefully. Perhaps not with quite infinite caution, but with large dollops of caution. The point of the exercise is to secure what we've inherited and pass it into the future. So that's the idea of a conservative approach. So Burke was not a reactionary. He supported the American Revolution because he thought the British government was violating the rights of Englishmen in America. So Burke could make plenty of sense of the idea of the rights of Englishmen. We'll see in a minute he thought they were defined in English traditions and British traditions after 1800 that had been passed down through the ages. What he wouldn't be able to make sense of is human rights or philosophical rights of the sort that Kantians we've been talking about tried to. So for him everything has to be anchored in a tradition, in something specific that has been handed down from the past. He thought the Americans made a good case that the British were violating their rights, and so he thought it was fine for them to revolt. He also supported home rule for Ireland. He thought the British were abusing the Irish in various ways that weren't acceptable. So he wasn't a mindless reactionary by any stretch of the imagination. He was much more of a Peelite conservative thinking about adaptive change. So when you think about what he had to say about rights, for example. He says, you will observe that from the Revolution Society to Magna Carta, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom. Right? Again, there's a specificity to it. Right? This kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. No philosophical principles, no natural law, nothing like that, right? We have an inheritable crown, an inheritable peerage, and a House of Commons, and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors. So this is the idea of rights that he can make sense of. The rights of Englishmen that have come down through the ages, and it would be the rights of English men at that time, because English women had very little in the way of rights. Right? And so our liberties are by definition gonna be limited by the traditions that shape what we've inherited. He says here, government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. So far that sounds fairly straightforward, even Enlightenment thinking, but then it gets more interesting. He says, among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. We have a right to have our passions restrained. Look at this. He says society requires not only that the passions from individuals should be subjected but that the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their wills controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is the office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. You have a right to be restrained, to be controlled, to be disciplined. Right? You look troubled by that notion. >> [LAUGH] It's hilarious. He's definitely not a Libertarian. >> No not in the least a Libertarian. Right? This is the idea that. Because after all, for a Libertarian, the individual is the center of things. And as I say, Burke is about decentering the individual and centering the inherited traditions that the individual internalizes, absorbs, modifies a little bit, and reproduces into the future. >> I've never thought of a right to have my rights limited. >> Yeah, that's exactly, that's why I said right at the beginning of this course, one of the things you should realize going into the course is that who we think of as. I said that one of the least interesting things about a political theorist is whether we think of them on the left or on the right. And that indeed, some of the people who we traditionally think of as radicals won't be that radical. We saw that Marx in many ways is a kind of footnote to Locke, even though modern Marxists wouldn't like to hear me say that. And that Burke who's seen as a conservative is really in some ways the most radical thinker we've come up against so far. I mean, his rejection. Radical literally means getting to the root of things, and Burke is rejecting all the way down this Enlightenment idea. So it's a very radical notion, yeah. I think that's right. Yeah? >> Just in defense of Burke is that, those are his views on the French Revolution. So there is this also perspective where he is against this very radical change. >> Yeah. >> Which puts him as this extremist. Maybe- >> And you know his, you're dead right to say that. And his defenders say, he's just saying this in 1690. You know, by 16, I mean in 1790. By 1793, 1794 he was saying I'm completely vindicated when blood running down the streets of Paris, and the guillotine can't keep up, and they moved the guillotine around Paris by then because the smell from the executions is so bad that people complain. And they can't. That is just appalling. So he would have said, yeah, and he would have said the same thing about the Soviet Revolution. Right? He would have said, of course it's gonna bring amazing terror. So, that's what happens when you sweep away the foundations of society. And that's what his defenders will argue. Now Payne, of course, argued contrarily that the French Revolution didn't have to go the way it went, and it could have been diverted in more benign ways, and it was sold out. So that's a historical debate that we don't have time for in this course, but it'd be very interesting to dig into. What I wanna do is just finish up talking about Burke and then one contemporary Burkean and an application. So, Burke is open to the idea of a social contract. He says society is indeed a contract, and this is perhaps the most famous phrase Burke wrote. He says, it's a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society. Couldn't be more different than the notion of the social contract we've been talking about which was individual meetings of the mind. Right? He's saying, no. We're all links in this great chain that stretches back into the indefinite past and forward into the indefinite future. And if you wanna talk about a metaphor of a contract, that's what it should be. Right?