- 年報政治学 (ISSN:05494192)
- vol.16, pp.204-250,en5, 1965-11-25 (Released:2009-12-21)
Anyone who takes a glance over the whole history of Burke studies from his death up to the present should certainly be struck at various and sometimes mutually inconsistent interpretations. We now have many Burkes, such as great statesman Burke, romantist Burke, utilitarian Burke, democrat Burke, Burke the prophet of Conservatism, Burke the natural law theorist in Thomistic tradition and so forth.The writer thinks, however, all such Burkes come from quite the same premise; the premise that we can have a political philosopher Burke free from theoretical contradictions. This article argues that it is necessary to change such a premise.The writer does not wish to describe what political philosophy Burke advocates. All that the article wishes to make clear is how he recognized the nature of the world of politics, through the inspection of his whole treatises and letters before and after 1765. At the same time, since Burke is not only an ordinary politician but also a literary man fond of talking about history and literary criticism (especially before his entrance into Parliament in 1765), the writer also tries to draw some parallelism among his ideas of political, aesthetic and historical knowledges.First. Burke's basic view on historical and aesthetic world is very near to that of his contemporary Hume. He is agnostic of the essential existence. He tries to secure the certainty of his knowledges through reducing every sensible object to the utmost of its simplicity. But, notwithstanding that method, he always has a desire, consciously or unconsciously, to know the world in the wholeness. Hence method and desire contradict each other. The result is that, for instance, his idea of the “necessity” of historical world is divided into two in its meaning; one, the necessity of mechanism composed of cognitive elements, and the other, that of transcendental will of the doers.Second. Of politics; The letters in his earlier life in Parliament show that he strongly feels that the room for choice in politics is very small to him. Very important to the writer is the fact that he extends the conclusion derived from this personal experience to the idea of the world of politics in general and says that the nature of politics is also a mechanistic necessity. Since, for instance, he sees the theory of Lockian social contract not from the side of free choice of régime by its members, but from the side of irreversibility of the state of nature, or inconveniences of the dissolution of governments.But, if it be true that the method of analysation into the ultimate elements is the only systematic way to know the nature of political world, is it also true that this nature is necessarily a mechanistic necessity? Firstly, the element of the “spirit (or temper) of people” which he often mentions always lacks concreteness in its contents. Secondly, the element of “Burke himself” is also uncertain, because, according to him, the knowledge of himself is always post facto. Thus, it is no wonder that he was “never forward in his speculation” in practical affairs.However, Burke is a flexible thinker. Through the difficulties of his party and himself at the time of the American Revolution, he gradually modifies his earlier ideas on the nature of politics, and the result appears before 1782 in the following ways. Firstly, his letters in 1778 addressed to his intimate friends emphasize the importance of the unity of his party members and the consistency of the principle. The aim is to secure the firmness of leadership in politics. This firmness will produce the cognitive element. Secondly, the same letters insist upon the necessity of “identifying with” and “inclining towards” the spirit of people as such. This assertion means that we ought to know the indefinite “elements” in politics as indefinite.