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 not relevant to 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. Man cannot enjoy the same sort of rights in every nation. Burke argues that since the rights are conventional, they are incapable of rational demonstration. The rights are subjective, not objective. The rights are mostly founded on historical fictions. What matters is that they should be widely accepted and that they should work. Burke warns that if the conventional basis of man’s rights is discarded, then the alternative will be “rule of reason,” but this implies a rule by abstract principle, which always devolves into a tyranny.

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