The Locality of Affections, or Edmund Burke’s Moral Foundation of Politics

Philosophical News 19:7-18 (2019)
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Edmund Burke grounds politics and the state over the pre-political network of moral relations, starting from the family, evolving, through the village, the parish and the town, up to the class and corporation, finally arriving to the nation. These subordinate affections can be geometrically imagined as expanding circles of belonging and, though strictly linked to the state, they are not reducible to it, nor can the state replace them. In Burke’s vision, the state of civil society is humankind’s state of nature, for the reason that man is always, and since ever, a member of a community: we are from somewhere, Burke seems to suggest. Thus, politics is grounded in morality, and morality, in turn, is based on God’s will, which within history takes the form of natural law. The French Revolution, on the contrary, has broken the spontaneity of interactions between individuals and intermediate groups, eventually establishing the Terror.

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Giacomo Maria Arrigo
University Vita-Salute San Raffaele


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