Burke on rights and generations

“The political philosopher par excellence of the organic constitution was the Anglo-Irish theorist and statesman Edmund Burke, who wrote a century after Locke. Burke did not share the Age of Enlightenment’s optimism about the capacity for each rational individual to discern fundamental political truths. ‘The individual is foolish, but the species is wise.’ Instead of abstract natural rights, Burke believed in the real rights and obligations which grow out of the social conventions and understandings that hold society together. For Burke, the social contract which formed the foundation of society was not between individuals here and now but from one generation to another, each handing on to the next the product of its collective wisdom. The Burkean notion of an organic constitution has little appeal for those who, unlike the English, have not enjoyed a long and relatively uninterrupted constitutional history. But it was certainly congenial to the Canadian Fathers of Confederation who, though organizing a new country, did not for a moment conceive of themselves as authoring a brand new constitution.”

Russell, Peter. Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign Poeple? Third edition. p.10 (hardcover)

‘Hostile brothers’

  • “One of these ‘hostile brothers’ or ‘eternal sons of God’ is the mythological hero. He faces the unknown with the presumption of its benevolence – with the (unprovable) attitude that confrontation with the unknown will bring renewal and redemption. He enter[s], voluntarily, into creative ‘union with the Great Mother,’ builds or regenerates society, and brings peace to a warring world.
  • The other ‘son of God’ is the eternal adversary. This ‘spirit of unbridled rationality,’ horrified by his limited apprehension of the conditions of existence, shrinks from contact with everything he does not understand. This shrinking weakens his personality, no longer nourished by the ‘water of life,’ and makes him rigid and authoritarian, as he clings desperately to the familiar, ‘rational,’ and stable. Every deceitful retreat increases his fear; every new ‘protective law’ increases his frustration, boredom and contempt for life. His weakness, in combination with his neurotic suffering, engenders resentment and hatred for existence itself.”

Peterson, Jordan. Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. p. 307 (paperback)

Rapidly approaching the end of January

Like the week before it, this weekend is set to be busy.

Tonight is a Robbie Burns dinner at Massey, with sword-dancing and a charity auction to follow, along with one of the infamous ‘low table’ parties. I will be taking photos during the formal parts of the evening.

Tomorrow, there are three climate change events in Toronto: one at city hall, one at Allen Gardens (including a march to the Ontario Liberal Convention at Maple Leaf Gardens), and one at a site along the route of the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline. A member of Toronto 350.org will be speaking at the third event.

Sunday, I have tutoring at 10am (helping my student complete a law assignment), followed by a meeting at 2pm. Sunday night, a friend and classmate of mine is hosting a party in Mordecai Richler’s old apartment at Trinity College.

Of course, I also have heaps of reading to complete for next week’s classes, deferred midterms to grade before my Monday tutorials, and innumerable little chores to accompany it all. I am also reading several new books: Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief in support of my self-deception class, Peter Russell’s Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? for one of my Canadian politics class, and Boyce Richardson’s Strangers Devour the Land for an academic book review.