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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mean in action, 25 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
In his celebrated introducton to Hobbes's Leviathan Michael Oakeshott distinguishes between two types of authors: those who are ready to disclose every move by which they approach their conclusions and those, like Hobbes, in whose writing "nothing is a promise", "nothing is in progress" and everything is a fulfilment. Judged by the work that he chose to publish during his lifetime, Oakeshott certainly belongs to the second category.
(A curious reader might be rewarded in further exploration of this theme if he or she turns to the volume The Achievement of Michael Oakeshott where his friends, colleagues and former tutees recall a different Oakeshott, Oakeshott a conversationist, and almost invariably register the striking difference between the impressions they got from reading his published work and talking to him while his though was "in progress". Also of some interest is comparison between Oakeshott's writing and that of his great contemporary R. G. Collingwood who obviously belonged to the first type of authors - for that see Henry Jones's review of Collingwood's juvenile work now published as an appendix to Essays in Political Philosophy)
Now it appears that Oakeshott was writing much more than he chose to publish. And in this unpublished work one has a rare chance of observing philosopher's mind at work. The Politics of Faith and the Politcs of Scepticism is interesting exactly for this reason; and because of that should be read in conjunction not only with Experience and Its Modes, Rationalism in politics, and On Human Conduct, but also with other posthumously published work (Religion, Politics and the Moral Life and Morality and Politics in Modern Europe).
It is on this voyage that one can learn how the notion of "character" first employed in Experience gardually develops into a concept central for specifically Oakeshottian mode of inquiry - the mean in action between "history" and "science". One can also enjoy the evolution of Oakeshott's vocabulary and what may be seen as an achievement in its own right - a gradual developement of a view of politics: from a "necessary evil" to a mode of human relationship which is "as rare as it is excellent".
All this is unlikely to move someone convinced (and in a way rightly so) that previously unpublished work adds little to what may be taken as philosopher's definitive view on the subject expressed in On Human Conduct. But then one has to recall that this view, Oakeshott tells his readers, should be examined not in terms of its conclusions but in terms of its postulates. Probably the most important of the latter is: the business of philosopher is NOT to construct a phlosophy, but to think philosophiically.
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The Politics of Faith and the Politics of Scepticism (Selected Writings of Michael Oakeshott)
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