Edmund Burke and John Locke on the Metaphysics of Substance
For many scholars John Locke is seen as the forerunner of Edmund Burke, especially as reflected in Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. For them, Burke elaborates in his Enquiry a philosophical psychology that, in terminology and in its result, is fundamentally Lockean. Further, the claim is made that Burke and Locke are basically at one in terms of the “law of nature,” or “natural law,” in terms of the “social contract,” and even of “natural rights,” while acknowledging Burke’s more status quo, or conservative-minded political philosophy. Against the view that Burke “belongs in the end to the Lockean tradition of natural-rights individualism,” Pappin argues that Burke’s thought is most compatible with a philosophy and metaphysics in the tradition of Aristotle and Thomistic philosophy. This means that when Burke refers to the natural “order of things,” to fixed standards of truth and falsehood, a common human nature, the principles of causality, identity and non-contradiction, he offers a teleological understanding of the purpose of human existence and a providentially ordered universe that transcends a truncated epistemology or ontology as developed in Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding.