Jean Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke were great political thinkers with different views on human nature, civil society, government, religion, and the extent of human rights. Rousseau believes that men have inalienable rights and possess the ability to destroy and rebuild the government in accordance to those rights. Much of his theories affected men's reasons to carry out the French Revolution. Burke advocates for the stability and foundation of our government from history and its formation over time. He is favorable of monarchy and has a strong focus on prudence, ancestry and established religion. In Rousseau's literary works and Burke's reflections on the French Revolution, these theories are nearly always in opposition to one another. To understand what brings them to these theories, it is crucial to understand their unique thoughts on a number of topics.
To begin with, it's important to understand the thoughts in their analyses. Similar to Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau traces his views to the earliest state of nature. Rousseau depicts the state of nature as very primitive, in which man lives peacefully with all his faculties and provides everything he needs. He is self-sufficient, whole, equal and free. Although this state sustains man's basic freedom, over time, man begins to progress and acquire property. Eventually, man faces competition and complications to the security of his possessions. His instincts become irrational and unrestrained. This will lead to Rousseau's argument for the civil society. On the contrary, Burke does not even begin to conceptualize the state of nature. In fact, he finds the concept to be far too abstract and takes a more realistic approach. Burke focuses on the current society in relation to tradition and actual (historic) developments throughout history. Yet, although they reflect on this evolution differently, both reach the conclusion that civil society is necessary for mankind.
[...] Burke highly opposes this theory of natural rights and disputes man's ability to freely dismantle structures to form new ones. He notes that there is no science to the formation of government, nor can any formula provide for the enjoyment of abstract rights. He does not doubt that natural rights existed, but he claims that they are irrelevant to present- day society. rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned.” (Burke, p54) He also claims that man's rights are advantages gained from civil society. [...]
[...] While Rousseau argues that man has an equal share in governing society, Burke insists that upon entering into civil society, man “abdicates all right to be his own governor.” (Burke, p52) He states that the position of authority should only belong to those qualified by great virtue and wisdom, not by a majority rule approach, which would consist of common individuals, unfit for such a position. Rousseau disputes any gains received from monarchy because monarchy violates his standards of a social contract. [...]
[...] Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke were widely read, discussed, and reflected upon. Each holds very different views on man, civil society, government, and religion. Rousseau would argue that Burke and the members of his civil society are slaves to their king, victims of oppression lacking their natural freedom. Burke would say that Rousseau and the men in his civil society are irrational, desiring wealth and titles rather than honor and virtue. I cannot say which of these theories is true or wiser, but I can state my own opinion and beliefs according to their teachings. [...]
[...] Burke's opinion is that the ‘enlightened' men of the French Revolution lacked prudence and political reasoning. This emphasizes his idea of respecting history and the institutions that founded present-day society. Highlighting his traditional views even more, Burke believes that one needs to go back to the words of God and follow what is morally considered acceptable. fear God; we look up with awe to kings, with affection to parliaments, with dry to magistrates, with reverence to priests and respect to nobility.” (Burke, p75) With this statement, Burke makes his only allusion to the natural state of men, stating that religion is “natural.” He insists that feelings for anything other than faith and morals are corrupt. [...]
[...] Whereas Rousseau uses a social contract to enforce the legitimacy of government, derived from the consent, Burke strongly urges the idea of a hereditary passage of monarchy and liberty. So long as the structures passed down still exist and serve the goals of society, they should bind men who are born into them. In a simple look at history, Burke shows the stability of generations of heredity. He highlights the fact that time and experience has continually preserved society and that no virtue exists to destroy it in order to rebuild. [...]
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