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Edmund Burke for Our Time

Moral Imagination, Meaning, and Politics

Byrne William F.

Publication Year: 2011

This highly readable book offers a contemporary interpretation of the political thought of Edmund Burke, drawing on his experiences to illuminate and address fundamental questions of politics and society that are of particular interest today. For Burke, one’s imaginative context provides meaning and is central to judgment and behavior. Many of Burke’s ideas can be brought together around his concept of the “moral imagination,” which has received little systematic treatment in the context of Burke’s own experience. In Edmund Burke for Our Time, Byrne asserts that Burke’s politics is reflective of unique and sophisticated ideas about how people think and learn and about determinants of political behavior. Burke’s thought is shown to offer much of contemporary value regarding the sources of order and meaning and the potential for a modern crisis if those sources are weakened or obscured. In addition to providing a re-interpretation of Burke’s response to a number of historical situations—including problems of colonial or imperial policy with regard to India, Ireland, and America—Byrne looks at the relationship between emotion and reason, and the role of culture in shaping political, social, and personal behaviors. To assist even readers with limited knowledge of Burke, the book includes biographical and historical information to provide needed context. Byrne’s important study will appeal to political philosophers, literature scholars, and those interested in addressing problems of politics and society in this late-modern age.groundbreaking study of the Protestant Left is a welcome addition. Embattled Ecumenism will appeal to scholars of U.S. religion, politics, and culture, as well as historians of evangelicalism and general readers interested in U.S. history and religion.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. ix-2

...As Burke would no doubt appreciate, I cannot conceive of myself as the sole creator of this book. Although I take full responsibility for all that is in it, I am deeply indebted to many others. They are too numerous to list individually, but a few of those most directly involved must be acknowledged. I cannot convey enough gratitude to Claes G. Ryn...

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pp. 3-14

...we live in a “postmodern” age. The term “postmodern” has varied meanings, but is generally understood to indicate either a reaction to the modern or the fulfillment of it. In either case, traditional sources of order and meaning have lost much of their salience. This poses fundamental problems for politics, for society, and for one’s own personal search for the good life. To complicate matters further, it is also widely noted that ours is a “multicultural” age...

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1. The “Burkean” Outlook and the Problem of Reality

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pp. 15-40

...One way to begin to get at some of the moral, political, and epistemological insights yielded by a study of Burke is through some attention to that outlook that is commonly referred to as “Burkean conservatism.” This book is not the place to attempt to locate Burke at a particular point within conservatism broadly, or to articulate his role, versus that of others, in anything identifiable as a “conservative tradition”; treatment of problematic labels such as this, and of the ideologies they represent...

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2. Aesthetics, Ethics, and Politics

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pp. 41-65

...of political and moral thought a discussion of aesthetics may seem to some a digression. Others know that aesthetics, ethics, and politics are intimately related. Burke’s sense of the inseparability of these aspects of human experience is evident from the body of his work. Today, it is quite commonplace for postmodern thinkers to emphasize the importance of language, narratives, and art. Burke’s understanding of their social and moral significance, though more compact, may be in some ways more insightful...

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3. Reason, Emotion, Knowledge, and Morality

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pp. 66-93

...should be evident that for him aesthetic response is not a category of human experience wholly distinct from other areas of human experience, such as ethical and political behavior. Taking Burke’s writing on aesthetics together with his writings on political, social, and historical matters, it is possible to develop a partial model for human thought and action that illuminates questions of contemporary politics and life. The fundamental understanding of knowledge and morality offered by Burke...

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4. Characteristics of a Moral Imagination

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pp. 94-116

...including the concept of the moral imagination and its role, were developed from Burke’s thought. A healthy, stable, liberal society requires a people with a particular kind of character, and this requires that they possess moral imaginations of a particular type. That is, their imaginations must be the sort that contribute to the kinds of judgments and behaviors that make for good living within such a society, and that reinforce that society’s desirable norms...

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5. Moral Imagination and Public Policy

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pp. 117-153

...combined profound political-philosophical observation with a highly active political career. After he entered Parliament, almost all of his writings and speeches addressed some sort of pressing public policy concern. Although Burke’s policy focus provides a great deal of material for political historians and biographers, it poses challenges for political theorists, who must tease political philosophy out of works that were not explicitly written as such. But Burke’s policy focus also offers important advantages...

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6. Burke and the Good

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pp. 154-179

...thought offers us a model for approaching political, social, and ethical questions centered around the concept of the moral imagination. For Burke, good politics is politics that takes into account how people perceive the world, how they reason, and how they make moral decisions. Political action should be undertaken with consideration of how it may interact with, and shape, the imaginative framework that underlies cognition...

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Conclusion—Politics, the Moral Imagination, and Burke

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pp. 180-198

...of prominent historical figures, we also—it is hoped—better equip ourselves to address the issues of today. This is especially true in the case of Burke, who approached problems of the modern world in a manner that offers much promise, but has been little understood, developed, or duplicated. An interpretation of Burke’s political-philosophical thought that is developed from the “moral imagination” and related concepts not only enhances our understanding...


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pp. 199-214


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pp. 215-220


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pp. 221-228

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090197
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875806495

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2011