Edmund Burke for Our Time: Moral Imagination, Meaning, and Politics, by William F. Byrne. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. 246 pp. $40 cloth.
Although this important contribution to Burke scholarship at first appears to limit itself to examining an unexplored area of the Whig statesman’s social and political thought, it achieves a depth of philosophical insight that will be of considerable value to scholars across a wide range of subjects. The author’s aim is to use Burke’s concept of the “moral imagination” as an entrée into his thinking that, if properly understood, will help to resolve some of the apparent inconsistencies that have confounded or misled his interpreters and brought about an astonishing diversity of conclusions over his philosophical positions. Byrne is adept in his concise yet thorough survey of these interpretations of Burke, which have read him variously as natural lawyer, utilitarian, historicist, pragmatist, and romantic. The problem Byrne identifies is an unwillingness to jettison old categories of thought that inappropriately pigeonhole Burke’s novel epistemological approach. By confining Burke . . .
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