Civil Society and the Rights Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2888 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

SAMPLE EXCERPT . . .
They had to do with citizens, and they were obliged to study the effects of those habits which are communicated by the circumstances of civil life. They were sensitive that the operation of this second nature on the first produced a new combination." (Burke, 21) He observed that the collective state knew better than man about what rights were important for individuals.

In Burke's mind, then, the state "is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature." (Burke, 17) The contract between government and man is in Burke's mind, not even a contract. The government and the state is what should be revered first as it keeps the order of things. The basis of Burke's beliefs is the higher power that dominates all; the higher power that has given the largest of powers to government. Which is why he believed first and foremost in the laws and controls of the state, which had been set forth by history.

In regard to the state being one with man's full nature, Burke admits that to preserve individual identity, requires "a vigourous mind, steady persevering attention, various powers of comparison and combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in expedients." (Burke, 23) Burke admittedly is saying that society and the ways of the state is not the natural way of things. That in fact, it is artificial. However, he does not believe that societies are created by or are the product of reason alone. "Society is also based upon commonly understood and passed down standards and conventions, human instincts and "natural" human "propensities," even on prejudices." (Burke, 25)

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In short, Burke believes that the state is necessary to keep man from being an animal. The laws of the state serve as a utility to preserve the moral codes and institutions to which man is supposed to live. Burke believed that man is at his best when controlled by government and by motivated by God and other forces set forth by a society's ancestors. According to Burke, government provides the means for human wants. "In this sense, the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights." (Burke, 29)

Term Paper on Civil Society and the Rights Assignment

Burke believed that the type of government needed in a society depended on the times and circumstances. He believed that not every government is appropriate for every society. He believed that people don't necessarily know what is good for them. That sometimes their liberties and rights have to be compromised for the greater good of the society. But these sacrifices, he contends, are contingent upon the society and its needs. The state comes before the individual.

Conflicting Views of Society

As we can see, both Burke and Rousseau are interested in the individual in the society; however, Burke was interested in the greater good of the society, while Rousseau was most interested in the pursuit of the most freedom for the individual, while still being loyal to the civil society. In the views of both philosophers we can see a major aspect of totalitarianism, in which there is always some constraint present.

Rousseau believed in the liberties and freedoms of individuals but he also believed in laws that were applicable and equal for all. He believed that the individual should obey these laws only for the greater good of the individual and not for the greater good of the society. He believed the laws of the state should not be imposed but rather obeyed out of free will. "It is by the general will that individual autonomy can be achieved." (Rousseau, 13)

Burke however challenged this quest for individuality by saying that human freedom is not the natural state of man or a consequence of human reason, but rather the product of "civil society." He believed that what man knows to be freedom is only a product of his environment; he believed that freedom is only something in the abstract that makes it possible for man to live in a society. Not something that man is to strive for.

Both men believed that to have a civil society, individuals must confront obstacles. Both believed that it is necessary to go for a greater goal, whether it be freedom or greater power of the state. Both men also agree that the civil society is always quite precarious in the hands of its individuals and always in danger of eroding. According to Burke, "They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men; and as for the rest, they have wrought underground a mine that will blow up at one grand explosion all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament." (Burke, 27)

To Rousseau, all men are individuals in pursuit of individual interests. To Burke, however, a man was nothing but what he was portrayed as in his society. In his words, "The only man of whom we could have knowledge is man in society." (Burke, 7) One of the main differences between Burke and Rousseau, then, is the way they distinguish man from nature and his society. Burke sees no distinction of the two, while Rousseau insists that there must be this distinction for civil society to succeed. To him, the state is nature, and nature is man. Burke believed in the simplicity of society, but believed that society was not so much different than a beast. Both men agree, however, that if a civil society is properly organized, it can be very close to man's true nature.

For Burke, the society is the only source of a man's knowledge; it is his reason for being alive. He was never an advocate for individual rights because all individuals, he says, are morally fallible. Rousseau accepted this fact and still believed that as fallible individuals freedom and liberties should always be received in the society. This individual belief is true for both men, but Burke believed that men were only social individuals made to live in society, while Rousseau tended to see man as human and free, worthy of all liberties.

In other words, men can never have rights incompatible with society because all rights are social, but they may have rights permitted by a particular society. In Rousseau's vision, the rights of man are necessary for a civil society to function at its best. In the eyes of Burke, the rights of man are not an important part of a civilized society. On one hand, you have Burke saying that the real rights of man are established by the state to meet men's needs; on the other hand, you have Rousseau saying that these rights are useless in a society if they are not individual and stemming from free will. Rousseau saw these rights as being concrete, but Burke saw them as abstract visions.

Conclusion

Burke and Rousseau were both men intent on getting the civil society to run smoother. Both men, in my opinion, wanted the greater good for the individual in the society. The disagreement in views came, however, when deciding just what the rights of man were. Burke did not believe in individual rights. Burke said, "All men have equal rights, but not to equal things." (Burke, 4) Rousseau on the other hand, believed that all men should be granted equal things, although these things would be at the will of the government. He believed in the rights of the individual but understood the place of state in society. Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to Rousseau, "arise from agreements between agents in the social contract, the agreement in which people create government." (Rousseau, 6)

Burke and Rousseau were great philosophers in their day. Each man was trying to find his place in a world that seemed so uncertain. Each man's background ultimately decided how they would see the world for themselves and for all other men. Rousseau was a spiritual man, insistent upon autonomy and separation from society. Burke was more rigid, with strong beliefs in religion and state, believing that a civil society should be the principal goal of any man. Ultimately, though, both of these men did their societies good by bringing them together on some common ground because now we live in a society that caters to both of these… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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