Comunicazione Filosofica 1 (45):154-162 (2020)

Giacomo Maria Arrigo
University Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Edmund Burke’s political philosophy is generally known as the theoretical foundation of Western conservatism. In his intellectual elaboration, society is an organic complex organized in many stratified social classes. But who has the right to lead the community towards the common good? Burke’s answer to that question is: the natural aristocracy. Being the society «a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society» – so writes Burke –, all creatures are «each in their appointed place». And the group destined to lead the whole is represented by the natural aristocracy. However, this aristocracy shouldn’t be entirely confused with the big landowners and with the traditional nobility; rather, Burke’s vision is founded over a classical concept based on virtue and wisdom, and the natural aristocrats are described as «those who are virtute et honore majores». Hence, the aristocracy of birth and wealth is only a part of it — and every civil society will develop a natural aristocracy, or else fall into chaos and subversion.
Keywords Edmund Burke
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