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Fragment on Oakeshott

Professor Michael Oakeshott made a durable constructive contribution to Burkean political philosophy with his concept of “the pursuit of intimations.” It appears in his essay “Political Education” (which was appended to many versions of his Rationalism in Politics) which is an exemplar of his discursive yet inimitable style:

Politics is the activity of attending to the general arrangements of a collection of people who, in respect of their common recognition of a manner of attending to its arrangements, compose a single community. To suppose a collection of people without recognized traditions of behavior, or one which enjoyed arrangements which intimated no direction for change and needed no attention, is to suppose a people incapable of politics. This activity, then, springs neither from instant desires, nor from general principles, but from the existing traditions of behavior themselves. And the form it takes, because it can take no other, is the amendment of existing arrangements by exploring and pursuing what is intimated in them. The arrangements which constitute a society capable of political activity, whether they are customs or institutions or laws or diplomatic decisions, are at once coherent and incoherent; they compose a pattern and at the same time they intimate a sympathy of what does not fully appear. Political activity is the exploration of that sympathy; and consequently, relevant political reasoning will be the convincing exposure of a sympathy, present but not yet followed up, and the convincing demonstration that now is the appropriate moment for recognizing it.

That is superb; demanding but superb. Like so much of his best writing, Oakeshott teases out with great care a “middle way” feature of human life: in this case the singularly human world of politics. Oakeshott may come off as a moderate in all things — though fortunately not one bereft of warmth, a failing so common today’s humorless pedants — but in fact he was a great and forceful critic of modernity, precisely because he worked with such skill to examine aspects of reality that the harsh ideologies of the modern age have obscured.

In this he is clearly an inheritor and expounder of the Burkean tradition. His interests include preserving the communication between man’s animal nature and his angelic nature: between the earthy, embodied life of a creature of flesh and blood, and the life of wisdom of the philosopher, whose mind is ever in the realm of ideals and dreams; between poet and statesman, teacher and businessman. All good and patriotic men want to do right by their country and her people. But they find themselves hemmed in by circumstances, checked by accidents of history; and presented with opportunities that only emerge out of the particular character of their countrymen. A realism is imposed on man, and thus politics “springs neither from instant desires, nor from general principles.”

The definition even works for evil men, those conniving at fraud and imposition, or sedition and mayhem, or in any case generally treating politics as nothing more than a means to the acquisition of their desire. Still the brute facts of their political circumstances check them. The effective demagogue will discover straight away the avenues of approach by which he might manipulate a people. Aristotle reminds us that what makes a sophist is not his capacity but his moral purpose; happily, there are a lot of incapable sophists out there. The students of the ancient philosophers to this day emphasize the proper assessment of moral purpose in the art of rhetoric. Another great critic of modernity, Richard Weaver, was one such student. For Weaver so much of the orator’s vocation was the discovery of facts about the people to whom he is speaking; so that he might thus appeal to them more effectively. Noble rhetoric works to raise men to more just conduct, to truer feeling and deeper knowledge; base rhetoric works to debase them.

But both the sophist and patriotic orator pursuing justice alike labor under the sovereignty of the unyielding facts about a people, the particular facts of a certain particular people, which are expressed in traditions, habits, prescriptions, memories, etc.

Comments (43)

So, would it be true then that explicitly stated law never comprises the whole of what the law controls or speaks to: of necessity it is constructed in a framework of custom and tradition, and speaks about action with reference to that system? Then correct interpretation of law should, when the explicit law is ambiguous about a particular matter, retain the greatest part of tradition and upset the least amount of custom, all other things being equal.

This is, actually, required for any sort of "rule of law" anyway. Law is, itself, a series of expressions in a language, and language is a construct of human convention, springing out of shared history, experience, custom, and ethos. Where there is no settled meaning for language, there can be no law, and likewise where there is settled meaning, an explicit law is already determinate in meaning.

Therefore, the notion of an explicit law being a "living document" subject to multiple interpretations depending on the desires of the current interpreters cannot be supported under the rule of law. For any set of laws expressed in language, the lawgivers' meaning is the only measure of the law that makes the law to be determinate. In the case of the Constitution, ultimately given by the entirety of the people, the original meaning of the lawgivers in making that Constitution is the only meaning of the law that constitutes a determinate obligation. Any and every other meaning is outside the law given. If this is thought to represent a tyranny of the ancient over the current people, let the people reflect that they have the very same capacity to re-state the law to their own thought that the ancients had to set out the law to begin with. The fact that the earlier law is left standing in its old language means that the current lawgiver (the people) intends the old language and therefore the old meaning to remain in force. "Living document" voids the rule of law.

I've never read Oakeshott because I was never sure where to start. Any books you particularly recommend to a newcomer, Paul (et al.)?

The collection of essays Rationalism in Politics is the place to start, Chris. That Liberty Fund edition I linked to is excellent because it adds some other material to the original collection.

Tony, good comment. Oakeshott would almost certainly agree that law can only spring "out of shared history, experience, custom, and ethos." But I doubt he would go so far as to say that "living document" sophistry "voids" the rule of law. I think he would say (in the US context) that it merely substitutes for a originalist-constitutional consensus either (1) a more parliamentary framework where the governing majority is unchecked by explicit documentary restraints (though still emphatically checked by those stubborn facts mentioned above) or (2) an aristocratic framework where judge-made law is supreme over statutory law.

My view is that the "sympathy" or "intimation" that has been successfully pursued over the past few decades is more (2) than (1), especially on the contentious culture-war issues.

Now, my detestation of rule-by-the-few judicial aristocracy is well known, but I cannot deny that there have been intimations of this potential path of development dating to America's earliest antiquity.

A partisan of rule-by-the-few judicial aristocracy, like our friend Al or most other liberals, would do well to take heed that his favored form of government is, for instance, precisely the form of government that gave us the fictitious legal personhood -- with such broad privileges and immunities beyond what the flesh-and-blood person enjoys -- of the business corporation.

As for the parliamentary potential, I think may be worth pursuing. It is, in my estimation, far superior to judicial oligarchy. David Cameron in the UK has decent odds right now of pushing through an austerity budget featuring the type of severe budget cutting that is still almost unthinkable here in America. Cameron can manage this because his political system grants the governing majority a strong hand in legislation.

Now, my detestation of rule-by-the-few judicial aristocracy is well known, but I cannot deny that there have been intimations of this potential path of development dating to America's earliest antiquity.

I guess that is a pretty nice way of expressing the theory that is currently in play - the argued position that judicial "law" with a "living document" is in fact what is inherently implied in the foundations of British common law and the Constitution. Certainly there are people who make that argument and do so credibly.

I think that the argument is actually wrong rather than merely one expression of the multi-expressible tradition, because it elevates a judicial aristocracy over not merely the legislative body of the government, but over the Constitution itself. But the Constitution is precisely what casts the judiciary as an arm of the government (co-equal to the others, I might point out as an aside): how can a creation of the Constitution be supreme over the Constitution? Well, I suppose it could if the intent were to explicitly make it so, but the Constitution (and the history and tradition behind it) clearly intends that nothing on this earth shall be supreme over the whole body of the people as the ultimate earthly law-giver, and that the law given by the whole people (i.e. the Constitution itself) is supreme over any body or entity created thereunder. Putting the judiciary as an aristocratic supreme legislative authority capable of re-writing the Constitution by "interpreting it" under a living document theory clearly is not consistent with keeping the whole body of the people as the ultimate earthly law-giver giving the Constitution as its most recent law.

Or, maybe I just don't understand the "sympathy" or "intimation" of supreme judiciary being supreme not merely over the other branches, but over the Constitution itself.

Now, an unwritten constitution gives a whole different texture to the picture. Being not written, there is undeniably a need for some organ(s) to claim a right to express it concretely in written law, and these expressions cannot in principle be proven to be contrary to the unwritten constitution as such. All you can do is eventually get an overwhelming set of opposed parties to express a contrary view as being MORE in keeping with the unwritten constitution. Which method has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Parliamentary approaches might indeed be worth pursuing, but I am not familiar enough with them to have a feel for how they avoid certain problems, like the excesses of hasty mob rule. My guess is that a parliament like Britain's will have more flexibility than our government, and will also have greater swings of the pendulum back and forth from one excess to the other. Not quite sure why that ought to be preferable.

I would point out here that one way of subverting the natural limitations of what one can do with "a people" is to import large numbers of people in a relatively short time who have radically different "intimations" and who hence destabilize the entire political situation, which could help to release constraints on those who wish to rule with something more like absolute power.

Separate thing:

Paul, I'm rather disturbed to see that you appear to be developing a sympathy for in-principle _less limited_ government and appear, if I understand you correctly, to be chafing at constitutional limitations on the federal government's power.

For one thing (I say bitterly), why chafe? Under Obama and the presen Congress, we have been told that the federal government has quodlibetal rather than enumerated powers, so you don't have to worry anymore about that pesky notion of a written Constitution limiting what the federal "parliament" (only we call it "Congress") has the power to do--economically or anywhere else. So apparently any wish you might have for less limited federal legislative power has been granted: It just happens at the moment to be held by the Democrats.

Relatedly, of course, I think that our Founders were extremely wise to set up a government of enumerated powers in a written Constitution. They were not _only_ worried about a judicial oligarchy (though of course they would be horrified at that) but also about an unconstrained federal legislature. We need to move back to that vision of limited central government, not further away from it, whether or not we call where we are moving a "parliamentary" direction giving our Masters more power by giving the "governing majority a strong hand in legislation."

Lydia, I'm not sure how I gave you these impressions. Perhaps it was my favorable comments on parliamentary systems? Perhaps it was my remarks in the past arguing that the American tradition contemplates a supreme legislature?

I'm definitely not chafing at constitutional limitations on federal power. I'm wondering whether any exist that do not concern that absolute right to fornicate in any manner one desires without any consequences. Which reminds me of Sobran's classic quip that the Constitution is no threat to our form of government.

The fact that our system, in contrast to a parliamentary one, facilitates oppositional coalitions is, in my judgment, a point in its favor. I think we're on the cusp of a yet more energized oppositional majority, which is (given the nature of the governing regime) by and large a good thing.

But more is needed than merely stopping bad things (which effort, in point of fact, can hardly be called a great success in recent years, as you point out); we need positive reform, and there is little reason to expect that we can get it.

The example of the UK was merely to point out that under that parliamentary system, PM David Cameron is empowered to actually, really, truly cut public sector spending. Serious cuts, bigger than anything in generations. Even the French stood up to their street protesters and strikers and approved a retirement reform bill.

At the very least we'll have an opportunity to observe whether austerity works. Krugman and the Keynesians have abruptly discovered that they actually despise Europeans, which is interesting in its own right. We will soon have a chance to evaluate whether their doomsaying about austerity is right or wrong.

No, it was this:

As for the parliamentary potential, I think may be worth pursuing.

I took "worth pursuing" to mean "possibly better than the constitutional form of government we were originally set up with here in America." And that, I took to be because we should wish for a political system that "grants the governing majority a strong hand in legislation." As far as I'm concerned, part of our problem is the strong hand the governing majority already has, and is using, in legislation.

But I apologize if that was a misreading, as it appears to have been.

Lydia, I did not take Paul's comment to mean anything like a Parliament replacing a constitutional form. There are lots of constitutions that prescribe a parliament. Granted, replacing our legislature with a parliamentary form would require changing the constitution provisions that we have right now, but I thought he meant "worth pursuing" in the theoretical sense: a parliament might have virtues that it would be worth our while trying to capture - so far as possible - with adjustments to our OWN form of legislature. Or learning from such systems. Or (long stretch here) pursuing with a constitutional convention if it is established definitively that our current system cannot be made to work.

The fact that our system, in contrast to a parliamentary one, facilitates oppositional coalitions is, in my judgment, a point in its favor.

James Madison thought so too: in the fights between factions, the modest middle ground has a decent chance. But this only obtains when there are multiple factions, i.e. multiple parties, and works best when the multiple parties form alliances and coalitions that slice up differently on different issues. At this time we only have 2 viable factions. Much of the damage to our body politic is coming from all those who say 'Not X' having only one viable prospect to turn to. We NEED a dozen parties, of which at least 4 can garner 10 to 15% of the vote on any given issue. At the current moment, ALL of the little parties together rarely amount to 5 % of the total vote.

Is there a fundamental reason we cannot get third, and 4th, 5th and 6th parties up and running? Well, I can think of one: winner take all elections. I have been pushing for years that we should make the congressional districts 3 times the size, and seat the top 3 vote-getters. Then give each one fractional votes in Congress, in ratio to their votes in the district. This would guarantee several more parties. Another possibility is to allow a person to cross district lines to vote: if I think that candidate X from the next district represents my views a heck of a lot better than any candidate in my district, why can't I ask him to represent me? Give me one good reason. District voter eligibility record reason is obsolete: it is easy to fix, if we are serious.

We NEED a dozen parties, of which at least 4 can garner 10 to 15% of the vote on any given issue.

I completely agree, Tony. And I like your idea of, in essence, making Congress bigger. It might seem strange for such an anti-govt. type as me to say that we need a bigger House of Representatives, but I think it would help. Perhaps we could offset the cost by making the legislature only part-time (evil grin).

In this he is clearly an inheritor and expounder of the Burkean tradition.

Pompous generalizations and declarations, vague legalistic syntax, heritage mongering, and little if any concern with facts, data, or specific arguments: why, yes, Oakeshoot may very well be the reincarnation of Burke (with some WF Buckley tossed in).

Buckley wasn't disconnected from the facts entirely. He was willing to throw the Birchers under the bus, which I seriously doubt any Republican would think of doing today.

What, you mean throw the Birchers under the bus? Lots of Republicans would be fine with that, as they have no feeling for the Birchers. Try Olympia Snowe, for starters.

Pray tell, 00001001, since you are not diggin' on Burke or Oakeshott, to whom to you go for your political philosophy? Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky? Arianna Huffington? Alan Alda?

Either Oakeshott, or the comrades, eh?--a fallacy. (I leave it as an exercise).
Cameron. Heh. One wishes a Russell--or Orwell, perhaps-- was still around to say something about that poltroon. Maybe Chomsky has (not my guru, but ...has a few interesting things to say about politics and philosophy).

Burke's another museum piece, misread by most college-boy republicans. He was a whig, not Tory (though most whigs had by that time strayed from their Lockean democratic roots). Burke wrote eloquently if pompously (and a powerful orator as well), but...it's only part of the story--the English royalist and conservative view. Voltaire and Rousseau offer another side to the story--as did Jefferson for that matter.

"Either Oakeshott, or the comrades, eh?--a fallacy"

Time to recalibrate your sarcasm detector!

Say it trippingly... on the tongue, Robbi--as per the Kelsey Grammar school of crypto-fascism.

00001001: heritage mongering, and little if any concern with facts, data,

That's a funny little phrase. As if "heritage" were some dirty little thing that one only brings out into the light in order to bash someone over the head with. Instead of the very soup of daily life's details, looked at with long-range perspective.

See, modern physics, chemistry, etc think that you understand something when you tear it apart and find its parts. That works for some kinds of things, like machines and other dead things, but quite not so well for living things, especially if you want to understand them as living. It also doesn't do very well for understanding a painting: knowing the chemical properties of the compounds making up the paints won't illuminate your grasp of the art very much - you have to view it from a suitable distance, not under a microscope. Sure, the molecules are facts, but they aren't the art. Knowing it as art may gloss over the molecular facts, but is far more humanly important than knowing the chemical structure of the compounds.

If you tear culture apart, what you might find some of its parts. But if you want to observe and understand culture in living color from a modest distance, and then describe it in human terms, what you find is "heritage." Sure, the heritage description may gloss over a few smaller facts, but the bigger picture is still TRUE, even when some smaller facts are glossed over. Even if you forget about some of the smaller facts in the soup, if you accurately describe the soup as a whole, you cannot be also describing each of the individual parts of the soup in minute detail.

I think the chances are very high that our digital friend actually knows next to nothing about Michael Oakeshott.

That's probably more than you know. Oakeshott was a Hegelian when he started out--(though of the rightist, british gasbag sort). Sort of the enemy of , well, cheesy Karl Rove-wannabes like you Celli-puto

"cheesy Karl Rove-wannabes like you"

Paul Cella? Carl Rove? It seems he knows next to nothing about more than just Oakeshott.

I was also amused by being read a lecture about Burke not being a Tory. He actually stood up against conservatives on various matters. Don't you see, you idiot conservative? Burke was actually a progressive!

I've written about this phenomena before -- the liberal who discovers the real Burke and is astonished to learn how frequently he clashed with the ancien regime that was supposedly a base apologist for:

Moreover, the charge that Burke was a complacent apologist for oppressive aristocracy is itself ignorant, tedious caricature. I have been struck on occasion by the amusing and almost whimsical spectacle of some modern liberal or progressive having recently discovered Burke — that is to say, having recently decided to actually read him. The discovery leads the progressive in question to speak with pomp and solemnity, almost as a scold: for the discovery is like that of a prosecutor coming upon a clutch of useful physical evidence — better, as they say, than witness testimony. Perhaps he has uncovered the large fact that Burke (himself an Irishman) lent his considerable eloquence and intellect to the cause of Irish emancipation; maybe he has been amazed to learn that he prosecuted a prominent imperial abuser of the subjected Indians; more likely our progressive has stumbled upon the vivid fact that his sympathies were with the unruly American colonists. In short, our progressive has discovered the whole huge truth that Edmund Burke was way ahead of most of the progressives of his own day in endorsing progressive causes. And this truth is demonstrated best, we might say, by the fact that Burke’s friends and admirers were simply dumbstruck when he so decisively and so forcefully judged the progressive cause of the day — still indeed, perhaps, the progressive cause, as I have said, of the entire modern age — to be a titanic catastrophe.

Like most great conservatives, Burke had no antipathy for genuine progress; what he despised, and spared no effort to expose, was decline and barbarism masquerading as progress. He knew the secret truth: that a society usually must be civilized before it can really go bad; that great civilizations do not fall backward into barbarism, but rather march headlong into it with eager gleaming eyes and sophisticated sermons.

Anyway, if 00001001 has anything more to add to this discussion than amateur heckling, we'd all be grateful if s/he would just come out with it.

Some of us read Burke, not to say Hobbes, Locke, et al, years ago. Burke's political views were rather inconsistent, actually. Like Locke at times he often opposed the rich and powerful (unlike any American conservatives), and did not object to the French Revolution, until it turned ugly. Some called him a madman (including Samuel Johnson). In the Reflections on the French Rev. he was defending the Crown, more or less, and opposes any and all ideas of social contract (so much for the US Constitution, not to say Locke and Hobbes). You're not bringing anything new to the table (and from the looks of it, neither did Oakeshott).

I never claimed to be "bringing anything new to the table." I only claimed that Oakeshott did; which claim you are free to disagree with, of course.

How much respect your disagreement will garner, however, depends in part on such respect as you might earn as a commenter. Alas, that career has not begun auspiciously.

"[Burke] opposes any and all ideas of social contract."

Did he indeed? Well, let's go to the record:

SOCIETY is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure — but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico, or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence, because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place.

The sycophant—who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy—was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois. "The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God." (E. Burke, l.c., pp.31,32) No wonder that, true to the laws of God and Nature, he always sold himself in the best market.

Karl Marx on Burke.
Now, don't get yr panties in a wad. I'm not a marxist per se, but Marx did correctly note the opportunistic nature of Mr. Burke--a typical Whig trait, I would venture to say. He was a romantic liberal to the American rebels, yet a few years later, he's praising God, King and Country once the sinister jacobins were rolling. His ideas on politics and social contract don't go much farther than property rights, really -- that and having the constabulary and courts to enforce those rights.

The passage at the end of the quote makes his traditionalism fairly clear: ""Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place." So much for humans deciding on a political structure that's in their best interest (as Hobbes had suggested)--God ordained the House of Lords, as He did the great globe itself. Sort of like Foxnews of 1790 (tho a bit superior rhetoric)

~~He was a romantic liberal to the American rebels, yet a few years later, he's praising God, King and Country once the sinister jacobins were rolling~~

Ya think it just might possibly be because he was astute enough to recognize the difference between the two "revolutions"? Nah, couldn't be that!

This is what happens when nuance gets chucked and is replaced with Maximos's "tired binaries." Ideological thought rebels against all subtleties.

Ya think you really don't know much about American history, and reduce complex political issues into trite platitudes and moralisms? Jefferson and Paine initially supported the jacobins, as did other Americans--. Granting there were excesses that doesn't mean one thereby just gives up the ghost and blesses the Hanoverian monarchy and aristocrats across the board, as Burke did (including the magistrates, Locke's number one target).

For that matter, the French Rev. had popular support. It wasn't exactly a bolshevik-like coup. The sans cullottes were not lawyers and academics (as were the early jacobins) but mostly street people. Definitely horrid--but that's how history works--and for many rather superior to life under the Bourbon regime.

By which it seems clear that he does not mean a kind of contract that one is free to enter into, or free to not enter into, as one wills. If it is a partnership between the current and future generations, those future generations enter into the partnership by being conceived. When once they are in the partnership, they cannot leave it at whim, as the terms of the partnership imply long-term obligations. It is, therefore, NOT the kind of contract that the typical amateur Lockean wants to stand for.

"Jefferson and Paine initially supported the jacobins, as did other Americans"

What of it? Some Americans initially supported the Russian revolution too, Bolshie coup or no. Others, on the other hand, saw the problems immediately. That TJ made a mistake that EB didn't says what, exactly?

"for many rather superior to life under the Bourbon regime."

Excepting, of course, those who had no life afterwards because they'd been guillotined.

You are correct--EB's contract-lite does not imply that mere citizens agree to abide by rules which may improve their livelihoods, and agree to changing/modifying rules via democratic methods when needed (as both Jeffersona and Locke held, regardless of a few hypocrisies). It means something like obeying God's divine order, and His representative on earth, the King, and the Lords, aristos, clergy etc., and keeping the rabble, ie majority, down. Every amateur machiavellian-royalist knows that.

Does every "amateur-royalist" favor Irish and black liberty? Hmm, that would seem to distinguish Burke from them; as would his opposition to Jacobinism from later admirers of that Leftist bloodletting in 20th century Russia and Germany, for instance. Burke stands taller than both the past and the future.

Your critique of him is as inconsequential as your handle.

You don't understand the critique, just as you and the old Right Reasoners never quite understood philosophy at all, whether empiricist or rationalist. It's merely a tactic--bang-for-the-buck macho conservatism. Your worship of Burke's anti-intellectual paternalism is hardly different than the usual repub. yokel quoting Limbaugh, Beck, et al--tho with Burke he's assumed to have the "Royal Nonesuch". Just more wannabe Mussolinis--or is it Waffen SS (yr hero Oakeshott was suspected of some nazi sympathies at time).

Omigosh, now that you say it, it is all obvious. Oakieschott says blah blah blather bung, and that reminds us of all the times Burkehead said bilge blat bother gnome underpants. Perfect syllogism. Thank you for the clarity of your argument.

Yr the blah blah, avoiding any substantial points. I set out my argument contra Burke, following Marx's point, which is--Burke was an opportunist with no consistent political philosophy--he's got rhetoric, and love for God, the King, property rights. He understood maybe a few obvious points of Adam Smith. His basic argument boils down to tradition is always preferable to reform--offered with little or no historical support (ie, the French Rev. won't suffice). He's neither a Kant nor Hume--tho Burke was pals with Hume for some time--for Humean proto-neo-cons, just change the goalposts as needed.

His basic argument boils down to tradition is always preferable to reform

Wrong. As Oakeshott later refined, the Burkean school shows that true reform is always within a tradition.

Pray tell, what tradition was the Amer. Rev? (or French for that matter). Neither catholic or protestant, for starters. There were precedents--Jefferson claimed their thinking followed from "Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and Sidney..." that's not the Church of England, calvinists, or papists...and not Burke--who generally insisted on Romans 13. For that matter, the aged Oakeshott returned to the dastardly Hobbes (actually an egalitarian in principle..). I doubt Burke cared for Leviathan at all, except for the few quasi-monarchist sections on the sovereign (tho rightists forget Hobbes asserted the contract was no longer binding under a despot)

Paul, there is no argument, just a string of claims without support. Not worth your time, either.

Hah. Burke has no argument, nor do you, nor does Oakeshott (as quoted)--"intimations"?? Put that in a syllogism.

Burke insisted on various things, but "God ordains the King, and the status quo" does not an argument make. Burke offers endless platitudes via his windy rhetoric (which bothered even Dr. Johnson), but actual disputation--even of the Lockean sort of Two Treatises of Civ.Gov.--you will not find, tho' you can make sh*t up--the Right Reason tradition.

Let's see here. The claim is made that Burke opposed "any and all" forms of social contract; this claim being flatly refuted from Burke's most famous work, our genius of argumentation adverts to Marx's ad hominems and then carries on as if nothing happened. Next there is a gesture toward "contract-lite" and mention of Americans who disagreed with Burke vis-a-vis the French Revolution. Wrap it up with some standard you-dirty-fascist insinuations and you've got yourself a very unoriginal sophistry.

Query: what was the burden of Burke's views with respect to the Crown, as laid out in Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents? How the writer of that treatise should be treated as unthinking royalist is something only anonymous hecklers in comboxes can explain. Or again, Johnson thought Burke went mad. Why? Because the Irishman rose in such fury again British Crown policy in the Letters on a Regicide Peace. Or again, if Burke did not reason syllogistically in On the Sublime and Beautiful then I am a donut.

So at almost every turn of dispute we find our anonymous heckler either (a) making an argument that is quite wrong or (b) making one that is so bad it does not even rise to the dignity of being wrong.

The claim is made that Burke opposed "any and all" forms of social contract

No genius, that wasn't the claim. Burke insists on proprety rights of a sort (and the divine right of Kings). But he doesn't argue for them, or anything really. He says in brief "God ordained the status quo, and English monarchy in particular and it's good."-- that was his point in Reflections against Fr.Rev. Not when he supported the Americans (and was involved in some early American enterprise, as Marx noted--ie, it was in his best interest to support the Americans. He waffled on slavery as well). Burke's mistaken for some profound philosopher when he's merely a talented orator .

Now, where are those Intimations axioms? Pablito intimates, therefore he exists!

"[Burke] was defending the Crown, more or less, and opposes any and all ideas of social contract (so much for the US Constitution, not to say Locke and Hobbes"

First rule of holes . . .

Or again, if Burke did not reason syllogistically in On the Sublime and Beautiful then I am a donut.

Well, it's superior to his political ventings, but hardly necessary arguments, but quasi-platonic speculations (via calvin, more or less). Point out a so-called universal known as "Beauty", first of all. Or the Sublime. Milton might move some, frighten others, or just bore modern people. Aesthetic pain and pleasure may hold in some vague sense, but can hardly be quantified in any precise sense, not even as say, pain like when someone smashes in a punk's septum might be . Ergo, you're a donut.

"...in this case the singularly human world of politics."

Not so much; all social animals do politics, the level determined by a species' capacity for symbolic manipulation. This all seems too mystical to me. None of this tells us how reforms happen and what constitutes something inside the tradition.
You like Oakeshott and Sullivan did his dissertation on him. I can sort of agree with your excerpt; how does this help us with anything?

"Where there is no settled meaning for language, there can be no law..."

Which is true but that isn't what you seem to be using as a standard. Rather, you seem to be using an "intent" and "expected application" standard instead of semantic meaning.

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