Goldberg Review « Paine in the Burke Commentary Magazine

Burke saw no inconsistency in his positions, and neither does Levin (nor do I). In any case, inconsistency is an odd charge to level at a thinker who, as a matter of core belief, sees consistency of principle as a trifling concern. Burke’s thought is hard to categorize in no small part because he rejected abstract categorizations that reduced political matters to a checklist of discrete principles. “I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions,” Burke said in his speech “On American Taxation.” “I hate the very sound of them.”

Reason itself can reach the point of diminishing returns, according to Burke: “Politics ought to be adjusted not to human reasonings but to human nature, of which reason is but a part and by no means the greatest part.” As Levin puts it, Burke believed that the “dark side of our sentiments is mitigated not by pure reason, but by more beneficent sentiments. We cannot be simply argued out of our vices, but we can be deterred from indulging them by the trust and love that develops among neighbors, by deeply established habits of order and peace, and by pride in our community or country.” Burke’s sympathies for the American colonists stemmed not from a debate about the abstract rights of man (or of Parliament) but from an appreciation for the habits and customs that had developed among what he considered to be a branch of the British family in North America.

via « Paine in the Burke Commentary Magazine.

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