Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein
EDMUND BURKE, FUTURITY AND PROVIDENCE, Norbert Col
EDMUND BURKE, FUTURITY AND PROVIDENCE Norbert Col, Université de Bretagne-Sud/HCTI Looking into all the occurrences of Burke’s use of “futurity” would be tedious, but it is not amiss to bracket one from the near beginning of his writings and an- other from the very end. He had the eye of a historian in the unfinished An Abridgement of English History: “Futurity is the great concern of mankind,” and he mentioned various instances of divination.1 In the fourth of Letters on a Regi- cide Peace, also left unfinished but this time by his death, he encouraged the addressee, Earl Fitzwilliam – “[b]ut do – I no longer prevent it – do go on – look into futurity” – against the backdrop of his anguish over “the regicide empire of today.”2 The invitation was rhetorical: ancient seers had deluded themselves, but the late 1790s had a bleak futurity in store. Whether Providence would intervene was just a similar moot point to its concern with the efforts of earlier seekers into its ways. Rather neatly, this encapsulates Burke’s thinking on the subject. He was a sceptic, hence one that shared some of the values of his time, but his scepticism derived from a Christian worldview. In between these two poles, there could have been room for contemporary ideas whereby mankind mastered as much as could be mastered of its future with the help of science, technology and a new set of moral values. Efforts have indeed been made to connect Burke with some of these devel-...
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