Edmund Burke and Aquinas’s Treatise on Law

The Edmund Burke Society studies and propagates the thought of Edmund Burke as a natural law conservatism. The Society insists that Burke’s political philosophy does not make sense without the underpinning of classical natural law crucially influenced by St Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law, but going back through the Church Fathers to Cicero, Aristotle and Plato.

As we witness in Australia the grip on politics and society by those subscribing to Marxism and its outgrowths of identity politics and postmodernism, an understanding of natural law and its application has never been more necessary. Conservatives must be able to argue the existences of objective standards, a correct understanding of society, and the prescriptive nature of settled arrangements.

For this purpose I have abridged Aquinas’s long Treatise on Law to highlight the main points of Natural Law and Human Law:

AQUINAS TREATISE ON LAW abridged

Gerard Wilson

Natural Law, Social Justice, and the Crisis of Liberty in the West

The essay below by Ryan T. Anderson on The Witherspoon Institute website is an excellent piece on the natural law. Edmund Burke outlined similar ideas about the duties inherent in man’s nature. See Edmund Burke on what it means to be a people.

Since I have just said a few words on natural law and economic freedom, I want to say a few words about a natural law conception of social justice and how it can help us now. Some people think social justice is a twentieth century invention of left-leaning thinkers, but this starts the history of social justice midstream. To understand its true meaning, we must look farther back to its real historical origins.

The first known use of the phrase “social justice” was by a Jesuit Thomist, Luigi Taparelli, in his multivolume work published between 1840 and 1843 titled Saggio teoretico di dritto naturale appoggiato sul fatto (A Theoretical Treatise on Natural Law Resting on Fact). I want to emphasize two arguments that Taparelli highlighted by coining the new phrase “social justice”: first, that man is social by nature and belongs to many societies and, second, that man has natural duties to others in justice. Read on…

Thomistic Natural Law and its influence on Edmund Burke

The Edmund Burke Society’s second seminar on the Natural Law took place at the RACV Club Melbourne on Tuesday 7 March. The focus was on St Thomas Aquinas’s writings on law in his Summa Theologica. The seminar was again most enjoyable lasting three hours incorporating the reading of talking points and wide-ranging discussion, between the serving and partaking of food and drink in the RACV’s Bistro.

Of course, we could only cover the surface of Thomas’s explanation and arguments as they appear in Summa Theologica, but that was enough to keep us going. The subject of the classical realist metaphysics that lay behind the treatise on law would remain for another time.

See here for the readings and talking points: Presentation Natural Law seminar2

The talking points and discussions brought us to an appreciation of Thomas’s masterly synthesis of the work of the preceding philosophers of Natural Law. There was also the crucial demonstration that unaided reason could arrive at moral and political conclusions and determinations, though those conclusions and determinations were confirmed in divine law, that is, in the Scriptures. Continue reading “Thomistic Natural Law and its influence on Edmund Burke”

Greek and Roman Natural Law – a brief survey

SEMINAR 7 FEBRUARY 2017

A Survey of Greek and Roman Natural Law

Members of The Edmund Burke Society met at the RACV Bistro for a seminar on Greek and Roman ideas of Natural Law. We had a long list of talking points which were on sheets handed to each participant to follow in the discussion. The discussion was broken at points by the serving of drinks and food. It worked exceedingly well. It was a relaxed enjoyable atmosphere and those present look forward to the next meeting on 7 March. Go here for the list of discussion points: Discussion points Natural Law seminar

The basic ideas of natural law is that there is an order in the universe, and that right action is behaviour in harmony with that order. Coupled with or implicit in this belief is that the objects of the universe have a character and a purpose. The integrity of the object is achieved through honouring that character and pursuing that purpose in both the physical and moral world. Continue reading “Greek and Roman Natural Law – a brief survey”

The life and works of Edmund Burke

A COMMENTARY ON PART ONE OF JESSE NORMAN’S BOOK, Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician and Prophet.
by Gerard Wilson

Jesse Norman has an impressive CV. His school education was at Eton. He went up to Oxford University where he was a resident of the illustrious Merton College. He came down with a B.A. He pursued his tertiary education at University College London (UCL) where he gained a master’s degree and then a doctorate in philosophy. He later taught philosophy at UCL and Birbeck College. He balanced his academic work with a directorship at BZW (part of Barclays) and a membership of the National Institute for Economic and Social research (NIESR). In 2010 he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Hereford and South Herefordshire, and as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.  In 2013 he was asked to join the Policy Board at 10 Downing Street.

You could hardly have a better background to write a book about one of the outstanding political figures not only of 18th century British politics, but about one whose influence in political philosophy and politics has reached worldwide in the two hundred years since his death. It is one thing, though, to have a suitable background to write about Edmund Burke, correctly described as a philosopher and politician, it is another to succeed in adding instructively to the voluminous literature on Burke. Norman has not only done this with Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician, Prophet, but he has filled a market niche and critical need in Burke literature that was crying out for attention. That niche is a limited one, but Norman with his background as philosopher and politician has filled it, and done it with a clarity of thought and expression that makes it pleasurable reading for the non-academic. Continue reading “The life and works of Edmund Burke”

The break with Edmund Burke’s Club

A number of people have contacted me to ask why I suddenly parted company with Edmund Burke’s Club after having put so much time and effort into building and promoting the organization. One surprised correspondent said that I was the Club, given my extensive input into its activities. Indeed, over four years I wrote ninety-five percent of the meetings’ presentations and posts on the club’s website, something I am sure most people will excuse me for being proud of. During that time no one challenged me in any substantial way despite the opportunity during the meetings and the comment section on the website. To the contrary, I was often complimented on my presentations at the club’s meetings. I make this point in view of what precipitated the break.

The spark for the conflict that brought about the break was an email from Peter Janssen asking me what I thought of a report on news.com.au about Tony Abbott’s urging people to accept the outcome of the plebiscite on same-sex ‘marriage’, if it should go ahead. Peter also questioned the place of a plebiscite in our system of government. No doubt he had Burke’s famous Speech to the Electors of Bristol (1774) in mind. The question touched on what I believe to be crucial elements of Edmund Burke’s thought. Continue reading “The break with Edmund Burke’s Club”

‘Gay marriage must be accepted’

Under the headline ‘Gay marriage vote must be accepted: Abbott’, 27 September 2016, the popular news website news.com.au informed its readers:

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has issued a message to politicians on all sides of parliament about a proposed national vote on same-sex marriage: whatever the people want must be accepted.

Despite his strong views against legalising same-sex marriage, he’s prepared to vote with the people should they say yes.

“This is a matter that is properly for the people and if the people vote for change, the parliament has to accept it,” he told 3AW on Tuesday.

“Individual members of parliament have to accept it.”

Equally, he hopes same-sex marriage supporters will do the same if the country votes no.

The proposed plebiscite won’t be binding and several coalition MPs have indicated they’ll vote no regardless of the result.

One wonders whether news.com.au has correctly paraphrased what Abbott said. If past media reports are any indication, Abbott is here talking about the politics of the issue of homosexual ‘marriage’ and not about its morality, his views of which have not changed, as the report indicates. It is not the first time that a media report has implied that Abbott has compromised his moral views. The report prompted friend Peter Janssen to comment: Continue reading “‘Gay marriage must be accepted’”

Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage and the Exercise of Prudence

In January 2013, an opinion piece by Tony Abbott, Leader of the Federal Opposition, appeared in the Herald-Sun, ‘For the record, I’m not opposed to IVF.’ This attempt to clarify his position did nothing to change the minds of Abbott’s critics. They simply went on warning women about his ingrained misogyny and the extreme danger he represents for their well-being and security should he be elected prime minister at the next Federal Election. Abbott would always be Captain Catholic for those shamelessly leading the sectarian campaign against him. The critical point here is that Abbott’s views on abortion and other such social matters, especially for his feminist critics, are in essence an issue of politics, and not of an exchange in which argument and counter argument are marshalled. I will come back to this.

On the other hand, just to show – again in the concrete circumstances – that often one cannot win in such hard-fought political matters, there were many conservatives who treated Abbott’s piece in the Herald-Sun as further evidence of Abbott’s (alleged) compromise on difficult moral issues, apparently to appease critics of his conservatism, outside and inside the Liberal Party. What had happened to the Tony Abbott who almost single-handedly took on the extreme left in student politics and came away with a famous victory, leaving his ideological opponents so decimated that they have not even today recovered and vent their frustrations by writing wimpy whingeing essays about Abbott’s brutal masculinity. There was a political brutality that Gillard’s John McTernan would be proud of. Continue reading “Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage and the Exercise of Prudence”