Burke on rights and generations


in Canada, Law, Politics, The environment, Writing

“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)

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