Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’

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‘I sat down to read the Introduction and, reading it straight through, found it to be such an exciting intellectual experience that it was a spur to my embryonic commitment to the study of political philosophy.’

From Ken Minogue’s ‘Swimming With Leviathan,‘ also published at the New Criterion:

‘What then is the Hobbesian theory of the state? It is distinguished from more conventional modern conceptions by leaving aside all substantive considerations of justice or rights—how the state ought to be constituted. Its essential character is to distinguish all constitutional aspirations from the prior question of getting a state into being in the first place. His aim is above all to distinguish statehood from constitution, the civil association from any concern with how that association is actually ordered. The state, in other words, must be distinguished from any particular opinions dominant within it. Failure to meet this condition would generate in some degree or another an ideological version of statehood. Hobbes’s great admirer Michael Oakeshott poses the same problem in On Human Conduct, and solves it by distinguishing “enterprise associations” (based on one or other enthusiasm within the state) and “civil associations.” The essence of the state itself may thus be found in civil associations, whose entire point lay in associating individuals together on the basis of nothing more substantive than an obligation to conform their conduct to a system of law. In Hobbes, the basis of statehood similarly lies in the recognition of the conditions declared by the sovereign. Any actual state, of course, will contain both types of allegiance.’

John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Update & Repost-Kenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

3 thoughts on “Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’

  1. I thought Hobbs believed people were not inherently good and a state was needed to keep them from robbing and killing each other. Right now I am focused on the silly drama in Washington as Obama talks “bipartisan” but remains defiant.

  2. Ron,

    Sorry for the long response:

    I think that’s still pretty accurate.

    As I understand it, Hobbes merged what he experienced of scientific method on the Continent with his prior scholastic teaching.

    Responding to the Enlightenment, and new knowledge, for Hobbes, people are subject to the laws of motion (or there should be some split, between body, man and State) but people are also still requiring of a Sovereign authority that it’s in their rational best interests to follow for protection.

    Nature is red in tooth and claw, and some sort of social contract is required for individuals to have any sort of thriving and security from this natural state of affairs. Hobbes meant that part.

    We must turn away from this natural state to the Sovereign, civil authority, contracts, laws
    etc. Hobbes’ social contract.

    It’s a pretty grim and foundational view for us.

    Oakeshott, part of the idealist school, subject to German and British idealism, and rationalism, sees Hobbes more as someone creating a space for individual autonomy and choice, and Hobbes as creating a work of myth, modifying Christianity somewhat, but not engaging in…real (S)cience.

    Yeah, Hobbes was affected by the Enlightenment, Copernicus, Galileo etc. but…his view of nature is an important step in a certain direction…

    To me, this raises questions of what nature is, and human nature, and what we’re capable of. Do you take a tragic view? A heroic view? A realist view? A teleological view that predicts an end to human affairs and development? Shouldn’t power be separated…Shouldn’t tradition be respected, and not subject to the reasoning of one man and/or one favored group in the present?

    Whether Nature is subject to our careful, rigorous questions, and whether or not it can be pinned down, whether the political philosophy that stems from the sciences and since the Enlightenment (and the ideologies and failed theories of history, like Marxism, as well) can absolve us of our nature, and Nature as Hobbes defined it is a fascinating subject.

  3. I myself, tend to see a lot of danger in German idealism, especially Hegel, but especially in the ideologies and theories of history that have sprung up in the ‘modern’ age.

    (Hobbes too…).

    One thing Oakeshott can do for people of conservative bent, however, is give tools to deal with a lot of modern thinking and life.

    Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?

    Where will authority come from?

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