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Edmund Burke was a Liberal

Harry Walton writing on the Open Oxford Facebook group (to me, prior to the addition of a rule against external quoting):
Sure, I never said [Burke] didn't use reason. I just said he disliked the enlightenment and disliked liberalism.
But you wrote, "Individual reason was something that [Burke] held disdain for."

I sure don't think you meant Burke liked collectivist reasoning and was anti-individualist! That'd be ridiculous and I didn't see other claims along those lines from you. So, I read it like you said Burke had disdain for (proper) reason.
"Burke tried to explain to people how actual progress and reform work, how to go about that"

I mean, I like Burke so I'm going to agree that he showed how genuine progress and reform ought to go about. Could you give me a description of what you believe he argued for/said?
http://fallibleliving.com/thinkers/burke
"A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve ... would be my standard of a statesman.” – this interest in improvement is not conservative"

Firstly, it is important to note that it is the 'disposition to preserve' that is the important part.
No, the point as a whole is the important part, it's about having those two things together. Did you check the original context before making this claim?

http://www.constitution.org/eb/rev_fran.htm
A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.
I think that clears it up. But read more context and tell me if you still disagree.

Maybe we could put it like this: you think the "disposition to preserve" is the important part, so you're a conservative. Burke thinks the "disposition to preserve" and "ability to improve" need to go together, so he's a liberal (and me too). And then, some people care about "ability to improve" without much/any "disposition to preserve", so they are dangerous radicals, revolutionaries, utopians, etc...
It's the basic part of conservative thinking. My favourite essay by Oakeshott is useful to put here. It explains what it means to be conservative. If you have some spare time you should read it. It's probably the best way of describing conservatism I've seen.

http://faculty.rcc.edu/sellick/On%20Being%20Conservative.pdf
replies to this are at the end
"Seeking progress rationally is how liberalism works"

Liberalism is an ideology that has a set goal of 'freedom' as a value that it wants to pursue. Burke has no such value put forward first except for maybe tradition. The goal of liberalism is to maximise freedom. The goal of Burke is just a vague. One of the main reasons Burke likes change is because he believes it is necessary towards preservation of the nation state. I think the only person who you would see as 'conservative' would be Maistre.
This concept of liberalism is mistaken. That helps explain why you don't see the connection between Burke and liberalism. I think a lot of our confusion is because the opponents of liberalism have spread a lot of lies about what it is, and now most people don't have much understanding what liberalism is actually about.

And the claim Burke only wants change for preservation is silly given I just quoted him, and you requoted him, saying he wants *improvement*.

For understanding liberalism, start with:

http://fallibleliving.com/essays/rational-politics/100-liberalism

and read especially

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1463

then you could find out what liberalism is – according to actual liberals! – before trying to claim and deny things about it.

Liberal means things like: open to improvement and change, tolerant, favorable to individual rights and freedom, pro-liberty. All of those apply to Burke. Liberalism involves being willing to question and change tradition (which Burke was).

Conservative is a kind of pointless word if you define it such that someone is liberal and conservative, at the same time. It's perfectly possible to do that. The "conservatives" in the US today are pretty liberal (and the "liberals" are largely illiberal).

But if Burke is a "conservative" in addition to a liberal, then what do you call the tories? What word is left? Burke was a whig, the *liberal* party, who opposed and politically fought against the more conservative tories in many things. Burke was one of the reformers standing up to King and traditional authority – calling him a "conservative" is therefore confusing, since he put so much effort into politically battling the conservatives of his time.

Declaring Burke conservative and non-liberal would also get into awkward questions like whether you're going to do it to William Godwin too.

Besides liberals and conservatives (meaning stuff like those tories Burke frequently opposed), another big category to be aware of and complete the picture better is *radicals* – the people who want revolutions, utopias, reimaginings of society. Radicals are the guys who don't respect tradition or piecemeal progress, who want replacement with their latest flakey idea instead of reform. (Objectivism does not use the word "radical" this way, but I do. I'm open to ideas about better word choices.)

So you get:

conservative – keep things the same
liberal – value tradition but seek progress, reform, improvement
radical – sweep away the cobwebs of tradition, replace with something new

or in programming terms:

conservative – the software works well enough, no new versions

liberal – let's refactor a bit and fix some bugs, and occasionally even add new features that we carefully think through

radical – i'm not satisfied with some of the design choices for our software, let's start over from scratch and do a full rewrite

again: if you want to define "conservative" differently, whatever. but then what word should i use to convey ideas like this? (pro-stasis?). can you see the logic to using words this way?

i think a big part of the issue is basically there aren't conservatives anymore. no one in the anglosphere wants *stasis* now. but in the past, lots of people really have wanted stasis, which is something moderns find hard to understand. there's still traces of people wanting stasis today, and problems there, but it's hard to find significant strands of thinking which are very thorough about stasis. and if you go further back in the past, or you look at other worse cultures, you get a lot more pro-stasis stuff. (have you seen David Deutsch's book, the beginning of infinity, and his discussion of the static societies of the past?)


http://faculty.rcc.edu/sellick/On%20Being%20Conservative.pdf

say it IS possible to
elicit explanatory general principles from what is recognized to be conservative conduct
good.
The general characteristics of this disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They center upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be.
Saying this isn't difficult is bad. It insults people who have difficulty with it, and doesn't add value.

Burke often wanted something else, something that "may be" – e.g. a different policy towards America, France, India, Ireland.
What is esteemed is the present; and it is esteemed not on account of its connections with a remote antiquity, nor because it is recognized to be more admirable than any possible alternative, but on account of its familiarity: not, Verweile doch, du bist so schon, but Stay with me because I am attached to you.
Where does Burke say we should hold the present in high esteem because we're familiar with it? I don't think he thinks that way.
In short, it is a disposition appropriate to a man who is acutely aware of having something to lose which he has learned to care for
Burke does have this. I am not denying that a fair amount of Burke's ideas have some overlap with some conservative ideas. But that doesn't stop him from being thoroughly liberal.
Now, all this is represented in a certain attitude towards change and innovation; change denoting alterations we have to suffer and innovation those we design and execute.
This idea of thinking you have to *suffer* alterations is just the sort of thing I would consider conservative. But Burke thought some alterations were good, not things to suffer.

The part about innovation has a grammar problem, I'm hoping to figure out what it means later.
Changes are circumstances to which we have to accommodate ourselves
averse from change, which appears always, in the first place, as deprivation
change is a threat to identity, and every change is an emblem of extinction
Changes, then, have to be suffered
This attitude is like, "stasis would be nice, but we'll have to figure out how to deal with a few deviations from stasis".
The idea of innovation, on the other hand, is improvement. Nevertheless, a man of this temperament will not himself be an ardent innovator. In the first place, he is not inclined to think that nothing is happening unless great changes are afoot and therefore he is not worried by the absence of innovation.
Burke was an ardent reformer, a vigorous seeker of improvement.
Further, he is aware that not all innovation is, in fact, improvement; and he will think that to innovate without improving is either designed or inadvertent folly. Moreover, even when an innovation commends itself as a convincing improvement, he will look twice at its claims before accepting them.
This is true and wise, and is also believed by liberals.

This essay stuff is a mix of stasis, of disliking change, of strong, old conservatism. And then also of liberal-compatible stuff. Whereas Burke is a liberal who had only the liberal-compatible parts of conservatism, but wasn't some kind of stasis-sympathizer.

Elliot Temple on September 21, 2015

Comments (49)

> The ultimate and most profound of the fundamental insights of liberal thought is that it is ideas that constitute the foundation on which the whole edifice of human social cooperation is constructed and sustained and that a lasting social structure cannot be built on the basis of false and mistaken ideas. Nothing can serve as a substitute for an ideology that enhances human life by fostering social cooperation—least of all lies, whether they be called "tactics," "diplomacy," or "compromise." If men will not, from a recognition of social necessity, voluntarily do what must be done if society is to be maintained and general well-being advanced, no one can lead them to the right path by any cunning stratagem or artifice. If they err and go astray, then one must endeavor to enlighten them by instruction. But if they cannot be enlightened, if they persist in error, then nothing can be done to prevent catastrophe. All the tricks and lies of demagogic politicians may well be suited to promote the cause of those who, whether in good faith or bad, work for the destruction of society. But the cause of social progress, the cause of the further development and intensification of social bonds, cannot be advanced by lies and demagogy. No power on earth, no crafty stratagem or clever deception could succeed in duping mankind into accepting a social doctrine that it not only does not acknowledge, but openly spurns.


Guess the author.

Anonymous at 5:39 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2792
get a fucking grip and get over the fact you got booted from a Facebook group

Anonymous at 7:11 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2796
there's no mention of being booted in the post, it's all substance...

maybe "get a fucking grip" is projection

Anonymous at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2797
>Thinks the rule didn't apply before it was clarified and can't be enacted retroactively anyway.

>My sides.

Anonymous at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2798
what does "My sides" mean, and why is it quoted?

Anonymous at 7:34 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2799
>Not answering the question.

Typical Randroid.

Anonymous at 7:39 PM on September 21, 2015 | #2800

it's like he's literally a robot

>what does "My sides" mean, and why is it quoted?

Internal error, does not compute. Has never experienced real world human contact.

Do you struggle to understand other people? Does social interaction come difficult to you?

anon at 8:33 AM on September 22, 2015 | #2807
Daily reminder that Objectivism is L I T E R A L L Y Marxism of the right wing.

Anonymous at 2:47 PM on September 22, 2015 | #2832
So, I guess Harry doesn't care about ideas, doesn't follow up on his discussions.

Anonymous at 11:13 AM on September 24, 2015 | #3085
>collectivist reasoning

I don't know what you mean by 'collectivist reasoning'.

>anti-individualist
I think by your standards he would be considered to be. Edmund Burke is a defender of institutions for their social value. His description of society is that it is made up of the dead, the born and the yet to be born. He claims that society is a good thing necessary to restrain ourselves from rampant individualism.

>limiting the King's power
Look at his explanation, the reason why he does this to protect ancient liberties that he believes we already held. It was a non-radical move.

>better treatment of America
He wanted America to stay part of the British Empire and repeatedly said so in speeches to parliament. His speeches, and solution, are all about keeping the 12 colonies within the British empire. When the revolution actually comes. He suggests not fighting because he correctly realised the colonies would defeat the British so instead he wanted to focus on creating good relations towards a nation that he essentially saw as British. This all fits in with conservative thinking.

>India

This is a mix of things, first Warren Hastings was corrupt. This part of it is mere management. The second is Burke's objection to universalism. He believed that solutions and traditions that existed in Britain only worked because of our particular history and particular institutions. He believed the British 'one size fits all solution' was bound to fail for the same reason that all broad rationalist strokes fail. This is, once again, the heart of conservative thinking. Also, he was very much in favour of socialistic solutions. He wanted the British to

"With us there are no retributory superstitions, by which a foundation of charity compensates, through ages, to the poor, for the rapine and injustice of a day. With us no pride erects stately monuments which repair the mischiefs which pride had produced, and which adorn a country out of its own spoils. England has erected no churches, no hospitals, no palaces, no schools; England has built no bridges, made no highroads, cut no navigations, dug out no reservoirs" -Burke on British involvement in India

>Your use of language 'liberalism' & conservatism
Language is just something we're using to communicate ideas. You write in a way that seems almost purposefully designed to obfuscate ideas. No one uses words the words you use to communicate the ideas you're trying to communicate. The idea that liberals 'value tradition' is very amusing. You seem to be saying that everyone besides you and your rationalist, yes you are rationalists, friends just use the wrong words. That being said, you still wouldn't be considered conservative in my book because you I've seen no evidence that you value traditions as a source of knowledge. You appear to against authority figures/institutions giving us knowledge even though that's the most fundamental part of Burke's thinking.

I don't think I will be able to do language justice right now in the time I'm writing this out, I would require a book to do so. It would be much easier for you to read philosophical investigations by Wittgenstein.

But to make it easier, here's what I mean when I use these words.

conservative – values tradition, skeptical of progress but desires a sense of continuation.

liberal – Freedom and emancipation are the main concerns. There is a basic split between classical liberals and social liberals.

classical liberals - freedom from coercion is their main goal. Belief in market solutions over all overs. Liberty is considered to be an ultimate value.

Social liberals - Take Issah Berlin's 'positive' liberty as the correct way to 'free' people.

radical – People who wish to make large sweeping changes.


>Oakeshott

I let the essay stand for itself with your criticisms. I was merely trying to you the more accepted conception of conservatism. The liberalism that you like in this essay is because of our own

Also

Reformer=/=Innovator
Muh traditions m8

Anonymous at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3087
Daily reminder that A Vindication of Natural Society was satire.

Anonymous at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3088
lol i know that about Vindication

Anonymous at 12:34 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3090
Tell that to William Godwin and Rothbard

Anonymous at 12:45 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3093
Godwin you'd have to give a serious criticism of his actual comments in PJ about it. Rothbard is a retard.

Anonymous at 12:46 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3094
T R A D I T I O N

Godwin literally wants to dismantle society to get to a utopian society.

Anonymous at 12:47 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3095
> He claims that society is a good thing necessary to restrain ourselves from rampant individualism.

Quote and source?

Anonymous at 1:41 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3109
> He wanted America to stay part of the British Empire and repeatedly said so in speeches to parliament. His speeches, and solution, are all about keeping the 12 colonies within the British empire. When the revolution actually comes. He suggests not fighting because he correctly realised the colonies would defeat the British so instead he wanted to focus on creating good relations towards a nation that he essentially saw as British. This all fits in with conservative thinking.


can you see how all of that is what a liberal would think?

Anonymous at 1:43 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3110
have you read Liberalism? http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1463

Anonymous at 1:45 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3111
> Godwin literally wants to dismantle society to get to a utopian society.


did you bother reading the chapter on (against) revolutions in PJ?

Anonymous at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3129
Reforms are a type of innovation, a new idea.

Anonymous at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3130
> >Oakeshott

The essay was rather hostile to progress and reform, unlike Burke.

Anonymous at 3:03 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3131
> Challenge to Elliot's definition of liberal and conservative

> "can you see how all of that is what a liberal would think?"

> Appeals to question begging intuition

Just wow

Anonymous at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3133
can you retards stop putting quote marks in front of non-quotes? while also at the same time using them to indicate quotes

Anonymous at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3135
>Does not understand how quotemarks are used normally

>Is such a megalomaniac he can't stop himself telling people

Anonymous at 3:43 PM on September 24, 2015 | #3137
"Maybe we could put it like this: you think the "disposition to preserve" is the important part, so you're a conservative. Burke thinks the "disposition to preserve" and "ability to improve" need to go together, so he's a liberal (and me too). And then, some people care about "ability to improve" without much/any "disposition to preserve", so they are dangerous radicals, revolutionaries, utopians, etc..."

No fam, the disposition to preserve takes presidence over 'ability to imporve' because disposition explains what your actual mindset is. The ability to improve comes from dealing with problems that appear to shake society. This is why Burke said that change is the means of our conservation.

Also, you've repeatedly stated utopian liberal desires and are engaging in another form of rationalism.

"This is, perhaps, the main significance of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom—not the cogency of his doctrine, but the fact that it is a doctrine. A plan to resist all planning may be better than its opposite, but it belongs to the same style of politics,”- Based Oakeshott

>inb4Idontagreewithhayek

The point is you've still shown utopian desires towards a society that is free from all coercion and where everyone is, in your view, rational.

Anonymous at 12:12 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3212
why are you talking about Hayek?

Anonymous at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3213
what side do you think hayek is on or represents?

Anonymous at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3214
>can you see how all of that is what a liberal would think?

Yeah? There are liberal traditions with the United Kingdom. That being said, I was using the policy to explain why he did what he did as a conservative and not as a liberal. I never talk about high minded ideals in that. I only talk about his desire to preserve and his desire for non-radicalism.

>did you bother reading the chapter on (against) revolutions in PJ?
The fact that he is not a revolutionary does not mean that isn't a Utopian thinker. It's as utopian as Fabian socialism.

Anonymous at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3215
Hayek is a classical liberal. I explained why I'm talking about Hayek.

Anonymous at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3216
Hayek is no liberal

Anonymous at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3217
Why isn't Hayek a liberal?

Anonymous at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3218
*Classical liberal

Anonymous at 12:23 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3219
he argued against liberals like mises and rand. he argued against freedom and capitalism in tons of ways

Anonymous at 12:23 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3220
"classical" liberal is the only type of actual liberal. US democrats today are not liberal

Anonymous at 12:23 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3222
hayek was a major socialist sympathizer. that's anti-liberal

Anonymous at 12:24 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3223
Oh, I understand. Hayek isn't enough of a utopian thinker for you.

Anonymous at 12:24 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3224
just like US democrats who like some socialism are anti-liberal

Anonymous at 12:24 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3225
when did whiteys start using 'fam' ???

Anonymous at 12:44 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3226
>when did whiteys start using 'fam' ???

It's been going for quite a while fam tbh smh imo

Anonymous at 4:55 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3252
Elliot seems obsessed with labels, rather than the content of what people say.

It feels like fucking tumblr in here.

Anonymous at 5:41 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3273
>what side do you think hayek is on or represents?

Everything's so black and white for you isn't it m8

Anonymous at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3277
If you're not with me, then you're my ENEMY!!!!!

Anonymous at 6:14 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3278
i'm labelling hayek this way b/c of the content of what he said.

Anonymous at 9:24 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3286
did u read his interview when he was old and he was like "well kinda my bad, mises was mostly right the whole time and i was being dumb and not getting it" ?

Anonymous at 9:24 PM on September 25, 2015 | #3287
>i'm labelling hayek this way b/c of the content of what he said.

The point is that the labels are fucking irrelevant you completely fucking moron. Being obsessed with whether someone fits a (highly specific) definition of 'liberal' or whatever is really fucking pointless.

You are completely obsessed with itemising and regimenting everything into your own preconceived framework, regardless of whether it actually fits, because your conception of the world is incredibly naive and simplistic.

Anonymous at 2:36 AM on September 26, 2015 | #3292
what if the framework is right tho, in which case everything *will* fit somehow

then you're just blocking your capacity to be right about anything by lying to yourself about it

Anonymous at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2015 | #3399

Anonymous at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2015 | #3403
Also in regards to Burke's thoughts about individualism

"Permit me then to continue our conversation, and to tell you what the freedom is that I love, and that to which I think all men entitled. This is the more necessary, because, of all the loose terms in the world, liberty is the most indefinite. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions."

Anonymous at 3:32 PM on October 4, 2015 | #3404
When trying to make arguments with quotes (are you trying to argue something?) it really helps to state briefly what you think the quote says and what your argument is.

Anonymous at 3:40 PM on October 4, 2015 | #3406

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)