Published Humanitas, Volume XXXI, Nos. 1 and 2, 2018

There is a prominent aspect of the thought of Edmund Burke that political theorists and others have had great difficulty understanding and that has made even his admirers underestimate his philosophical importance. At the core of the difficulty is how Burke relates an emphasis on concrete historical circumstances and tradition to the ancient idea of a universal norm for life and politics. A wide variety of terms have been used over the centuries to speak about different aspects of this higher norm or reality—“the Good,” “the Beyond,” “the transcendent,” “the eternal,” “God,” “the Ground of Being,” “universal values,” “the Universal,” “natural right,” “the good, the true, and the beautiful,” to mention just a few. One may use “universality” or “the universal” for short. Of the many thinkers who have had difficulty making sense of Burke’s historical consciousness the most celebrated in recent decades has been Leo Strauss.

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