Saturday, February 1, 2020

Burke’s Case Against Natural Rights

Man’s rights are not natural; they are manmade and hard-earned. The idea of natural rights is an idealistic abstraction which is incoherent in face of the practical realities of the world. In his Refections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke notes that conventions—and not nature—are the basis of the real rights for man. This implies that man cannot enjoy rights in every nation—the rights are specific to those nations which possess healthy philosophical and political conventions. Burke argues that since the rights are conventional, they are incapable of rational demonstration. Man’s rights can be founded on historical fictions—what matters is that they should be widely accepted and that they should work. He warns that if the conventional basis of man’s rights is discarded, then the alternative will be “rule of reason” which means a rule by abstract principle, and that, he asserts, always devolves into a rule by brute force and great violence.

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