Two Friday Quotations-Michael Oakeshott

‘This is, perhaps, the main significance of Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom–not the cogency of his doctrine, but the fact that it is a doctrine.  A plan to resist all planning may be better than its opposite, but belongs to the same style of politics.


‘Among the other evidences of Rationalism in contemporary politics, may be counted the commonly admitted claim of the ‘scientist, as such (the chemist, the physicist, the economist or the psychologist) to be heard in politics; because, though the knowledge involved in a science is always more than technical knowledge, what it has to offer to politics is never more than a technique.’

Oakeshott, Michael.  Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991. Print.

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

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?’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” 

Wednesday Poem-Richard Eberhart’s ‘The Groundhog’

The Groundhog

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

Richard Eberhart

Religious Idealism Vs Reductive Idealism On The Self, Free Will & Your Soul

Beginning at minute 1:48:08, ‘There’s just agency, there’s no (S)elf…there’s no soul, there’s no ‘Me’, there’s no ‘I’…the Enlightenment (S)elf is going away.’

Maybe it all won’t be synthesized into a kind of Hegelian Absolute Ideal Superstate nor a Communist Utopia?:

Sam Harris, also pushing against the Woke, beginning at 54:51:

The sense of Self is something that people, I think, do experience, right? It’s not a very clear experience, but…I wouldn’t call the illusion of Self an illusion. But the illusion of free will is an illusion…as you pay more attention to your experience, you begin to see it’s totally compatible with an absence of free will.’

As posted on this site:

What I originally scribbled down eleven years ago, now:

Below is a challenge I don’t think I’ve met:

Here’s a video of a recent NYU protest:

Of course this is an absurd example of leftist protest, one which the real radicals would find a pale imitation of real protest.   Yet, a recognizable youthful idealism is on display here; an earnest attempt of applying highly abstract political and philosophical ideals to current circumstances and direct experience.

Here’s some of the philosophical backstory from wikipedia:

“The guiding ideal behind Hegel’s absolute idealism is the scientific thought, which he shares with Plato and other great idealist thinkers, that the exercise of reason and intellect enables the philosopher to know ultimate historical reality”

Addition:  Hegel was an idealist because empirical reality is not knowable to us, but is always mediated by the mind to some extent (after Kant), but unlike Kant, that reality isn’t attributable to categories of thought which yield genuine knowledge of the physical world (Kant was an empirical realist, influenced by Newton’s Principia and keep in mind Kant failed in his aim to put metaphysics on the same ground as the sciences).


Such absolute idealism can pose real danger to individual liberty as can all folks seeking to institute a top down set of abstract principles. This grants legitimacy to all manner of statist thinkers (who have translated that troubling relationship between individual and collective in Hegel’s work to “rational” projects. What follows is aa political philosophy and platform for actual governance for the German State, but given German piety I believe was already there to some extent. Enlightened individuals, along with their followers, very much believe that they are on the road to Enlightened reality, and that such a road must be built and maintained by themselves.

Of course this isn’t the only influence, and it doesn’t necessarily de-legitimize Hegel’s thought either, as many other uses can be found for it even by those who don’t understand it all (of which I am one).  Francis Fukuyama, in The End Of History synthesizes Hegelian thought with many other influences (including Nietzsche, which Allan Bloom didn’t much like) into the building of neoconservatism. (which I should mention is a movement from which Fukuyama has been distancing himself since the Iraq war).


However, I’ve been asked to come up with an intelligent connection between the political/philosophical idealism of the NYU protestors and this recent 60 minutes video, which portrays the Israeli settler situation and its religiously motivated idealism.

In the video, Israeli settlers (many of whom are young), are busy applying highly abstract religious principles as proof of their rights to the land they colonize.  It seems something of a kibbutz, where both socialism and Zionism are merged, but it is also very much religiously motivated.  Such idealism also doesn’t seem too far from Israeli nationalism (with which it may come into direct conflict through the state’s use of military force, which Israel’s elected officials and lawmakers claim they may well have to use against them).


Perhaps the best I can come up with is what I’ve already hinted at:  a shared lack of individualism in both cases (which as an American, I may mistakenly assume has such strong roots elsewhere as it is does here).  Both groups of individuals are placing perhaps even their lives in the hands of group authority, which in turn is guided by the interpretation of highly abstract and profound ideas under which collective action is sought.

It is doubtful that any one member of either group has entirely thought the guiding ideas through, but it is likely that each of them have had many doubts…doubts which their respective groups don’t necessarily foster.


It’s also worth pointing out that in the U.S., we have managed to create a structure in which people may believe and organize as they please, but the attendant political idealism and desire to base principles in virtue as determined by one political party, one sitting government, or indeed one majority (and the tyranny that majority can wield over any individual) has so far been kept in check.

In addition, we have also successfully managed to develop a state in which freedom of religion is maintained, but religious idealism (and the desire to ground our principles in religious texts and belief) is also thankfully kept in check.


I don’t know if this is a satisfactory, or even complete response, as most of what I’ve said is fairly pedestrian, over-simplified, and nothing new…

If you think you can do better, have at it.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Happy Memorial Day 2021

For [the memory] of those who have died for our country.

Addition:  From Maverick Philosopher:  The Difference Between Patriotism And Jingoism.

From a collection of Civil War Letters:

“I took some tobacco down with me the other day but I found out when I got there communication had been stopped. As I was sitting on the banks, one of the Yankees from the other side called to me to know if I had any tobacco. I told him I had. He said that he had a good knife to trade for it. I told him that trading was prohibited. He said “Your officers won’t see you, come over, I want a chew of tobacco very bad.” I asked some of them who they were going to vote for President. One of them said “Old Abe” but most of them said they were for McLellan.”

Via Youtube-Ken Minogue:  ‘How Political Idealism Threatens Our Civilization’

Also, from  Alien Powers:  The Pure Theory Of Ideology:

Ideology is a philosophical type of allegiance purporting to transcend the mere particularities of family, religion, or native hearth, and in essence lies in struggle.  The world is a battlefield, in which there are two enemies.  One is the oppressor, the other consists of fellow ideologies who have generally mistake the conditions of liberation.’


‘Yet for all their differences, ideologies can be specified in terms of a shared hostility to modernity: to liberalism in politics, individualism in moral practice, and the market in economics.’

Arnold Kling reviews the late Kenneth Minogue’sThe Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes The Moral Life,‘ and finishes with:

‘Overall, I would say that for libertarians Minogue’s book provides a litmus test. If you find yourself in vigorous agreement with everything he says, then you probably see no value in efforts to work with progressives to promote libertarian causes. The left is simply too dedicated to projects that Minogue argues undermine individual moral responsibility, and thus they are antithetical to liberty. On the other hand, if you believe that Minogue is too pessimistic about the outlook for freedom in today’s society and too traditional in his outlook on moral responsibility, then you would feel even more uneasy about an alliance with conservatives than about an alliance with progressives.’

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Related On This Site: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Friday Poem-Seamus Heaney


When I looked down from the bridge
Trout were flipping the sky
Into smithereens, the stones
Of the wall warmed me.

Wading green stems, lugs of leaf
That untangle and bruise
(Their tiny gushers of juice)
My toecaps sparkle now

Over the soft fontanel
Of Ireland. I should wear
Hide shoes, the hair next my skin,
For walking this ground:

Wasn’t there a spa-well,
Its coping grassy, pendent?
And then the spring issuing
Right across the tarmac.

I’m out to find that village,
Its low sills fragrant
With ladysmock and celandine,
Marshlights in the summer dark.

Seamus Heaney