A different way of political reasoning
Edmund Burke is regarded as the father of modern Conservatism. Born in Dublinin 1729 to a Protestant father (who may have conformed) and Catholic mother, he made his way across the Irish Sea to become a member of the British House of Commons. He gave speeches in the House and wrote pamphlets on the major issues of the time, and was a leader and philosophical guide in the administrations of the Rockingham Whigs, often making crucial interventions that changed the course and nature of British politics. John Morley, one of his early biographers, wrote the following in summary of his career in politics:
‘…no one that ever lived used the general ideas of the thinker more successfully to judge the particular problems of the statesman. No one has ever come close to the details of practical politics, and at the same time remembered that these can only be understood and only dealt with by the aid of the broad conceptions of political philosophy. And what is more than all for perpetuity of fame, he was one of the great masters of the high and difficult art of elaborate composition.’
Morley raises the three crucial aspects of Edmund Burke’s thought that members of Edmund Burke’s Club (Australia) Inc. will study, debate, write about and apply:
- PHILOSOPHY: Often in his speeches and writings, Burke took up distinct philosophical positions to back his political analysis and critique his adversaries. These included views on epistemology, the nature of reason, metaphysics, natural law, positive law, the prescriptive nature of custom and tradition, and what it means to be a people. There are also his writings on what some think anomalous (economics and aesthetics) to consider. Members will discuss and analyse what Burke thought about these philosophical questions.
- LITERATURE AND ORATORY: Edmund Burke was a master of English prose and composition. Members will study Burke’s style and language to understand what constitutes the finest English, to consider whether a distinct Burkean idea of literature can be derived from the content and style of his writing, and finally to understand what function Burke’s mastery of English played in persuading his audience.
- POLITICS: Members will apply a Burkean analysis to concrete political action, to seek a clear alternative to policy generated by political groups presupposing a form of materialism — for example, radical feminism which exercises a powerful influence on all aspects of government and society.
Members meet every two months at the Savage Club Melbourne, of which Australia’s longest serving prime minister, Robert Gordon Menzies, was president 1949-1967. A member or an invited guest gives a talk on some aspect of Edmund Burke’s thought or on a subject related to Edmund Burke or the eighteenth century. Members break for refreshments during which they are entertained by a short literary reading, usually of a humorous or satirical nature. Evelyn Waugh’s works are a favourite to draw from. Members resume with a vigorous discussion about the just presented talk. After the meeting members usually head for a relaxing dinner at a nearby restaurant.
During his Trinity College days in Dublin (1744-1748) Edmund Burke set up a debating club which he youthfully called ‘Edmund Burke’s Club’. In 1770 Edmund Burke’s Club joined with the Historical Club to form the College Historical Society, making the merged clubs now the oldest undergraduate society in the world. In acknowledgement of and taking a lead from his considerable debating and analytical skills, we have called our association Edmund Burke’s Club (Australia) Inc.
The Management Committee:
PRESIDENT: Lucas McLennan
VICE PRESIDENT: Peter Janssen