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Leslie Marsh Goodreads Author Editor. Michael Oakeshott has long been recognized as one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century, but until now no single volume has been able to examine all the facets of his wide-ranging philosophy with sufficient depth, expertise, and authority.

The essays collected here cover all aspects of Oakeshott's thought, from his theory of knowledge and ph Michael Oakeshott has long been recognized as one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century, but until now no single volume has been able to examine all the facets of his wide-ranging philosophy with sufficient depth, expertise, and authority.

The essays collected here cover all aspects of Oakeshott's thought, from his theory of knowledge and philosophies of history, religion, art, and education to his reflections on morality, politics, and law.


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Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Companion to Michael Oakeshott , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Companion to Michael Oakeshott. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. J rated it it was amazing Jul 26, Duncan Brown rated it really liked it Sep 07, Gulsen rated it liked it Jul 01, Bakunin marked it as to-read Mar 17, John Samples marked it as to-read Apr 17, Daniel marked it as to-read Aug 23, As Oakeshott sees it, and Minogue reconstructs, the key is to balance the claims of faith and skepticism in the prevailing political arrangements.

It is an interesting question, which I have no space to consider, whether Minogue's interpretation could resolve the inconsistency that Malcolm diagnoses in Oakeshott's thoughts. Be that as it may, Minogue concludes his contribution by lamenting the fact, rightly so in my opinion, that contemporary politics has veered much too closely toward the politics of faith in the form of egalitarian liberalism.

Geoffrey Thomas discusses Oakeshott's view of history. His view is obscure and often appears to be absurd, as, for instance, in claiming that the past does not exist and history is what historians make it. Thomas very helpfully explains what Oakeshott had in mind by these needlessly paradoxical claims and then goes on to assess them critically.

Anyone puzzled by Oakeshott's view of history should read this contribution. The last of the excellent essays is Martyn Thompson's on the history of political thought. His is not just an attempt to understand Oakeshott's approach to a view central to Oakeshott's concern, but a genuine contribution to this controversial subject.

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Thompson claims that Oakeshott's view was that the classic works in the history of political thought in general, and Hobbes' in particular, have a dual aspect: Understanding classic works requires understanding both aspects, and neglecting neither. Thompson discusses the reciprocal criticisms of Skinner and Oakeshott of their different approaches, and thereby manages to illuminate both.

Companion to Michael Oakeshott by Paul Franco

Turning now to the contributions I find mediocre, I must explain first why I find them wanting. Each is a reliable exegetical account of Oakeshott's views on a particular aspect of his work, but none of them contains a critical assessment of his philosophical contribution.

Since such an assessment is part of the announced aim of this volume, the editors should have required contributors to go beyond exegesis, no matter how reliable it is, and probe the reasons for and against the views of Oakeshott they are discussing. The four essays that are wanting in this way are as follows. David Boucher shows that Oakeshott has remained an idealist throughout his published works.

Elizabeth Corey describes Oakeshott's view of religion and Steven Gerencher does the same for Oakeshott's view of law. It seems to me that anyone interested in understanding Oakeshott's views on these subjects should read Oakeshott rather than a second-hand exegesis of what he wrote.

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I left to the end four essays that I find seriously deficient, although for very different reasons. The first of these is Robert Devigne's on Oakeshott's conservatism. The essay is a rehash of Devigne's twenty-year-old book. Devigne asks whether Oakeshott was a conservative, says yes, but provides an unacceptably superficial explanation of how Oakeshott understood conservatism. Moreover, the essay is as much about Burke and Strauss as it is about Oakeshott, and it does not even begin to recognize that conservatism has different versions, or to consider the reasons for or against Oakeshott's version.

Anyone interested in Oakeshott is indebted to Timothy Fuller for his fine editorial work in assembling and arranging the publication of many of Oakeshott's books. I regret to have to say that I find his contribution to this volume pompous and dogmatic. Fuller writes as if he were Oakeshott's St. Paul, having privileged access to the truth given to him from above, a truth he now condescends to share with lesser folk, although without supporting it with reasons. The supposed truth is what Fuller calls the radical temporality of the human condition.

He means by this pretentious phrase that time passes and things change. This, he says, leads to "the terrors of the radical temporality of the human condition" Fuller can believe whatever he likes, but he is not entitled to interpret Oakeshott's view of the human condition on the basis of a few episodic asides in his writings, ignore much of what he explicitly wrote contrary to it, and read Oakeshott as if he were Heidegger. Oakeshott loved and enjoyed life and was not terrorized by it.


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  • In Rationalism in Politics , the second edition of which Fuller has edited, Oakeshott wrote that life involves "the enjoyment of an inheritance" 2 ; that "the greater part of what we have is not a burden to be carried or an incubus to be thrown off, but an inheritance to be enjoyed" 45 ; and that his purpose "is not to define a word, but to detect the secret of what we enjoy, to recognize what is hostile to it, and to discern how it may be enjoyed more fully" Nearing the end of his life, in On Human Conduct he wrote that "the gift of a religious faith is that of reconciliation to the unavoidable dissonances of the human condition.

    The quote within this passage is from his beloved Montaigne.

    A Companion to Michael Oakeshott

    Fuller may pontificate about what he takes to be terror, but he should not ascribe it to Oakeshott, and he should at least attempt to give reasons for and examine reasons against it. The third deficient essay is by Leslie Marsh, one of the editors of this volume. He compares Oakeshott and Hayek from the point of view of cognitive science. I find this more than a little odd.

    Oakeshott and Hayek were strongly opposed to a scientific approach to understanding human beings. Cognitive science is the most recent approach of this kind. To try to understand either Oakeshott's or Hayek's work through it is absurd.

    Companion to Michael Oakeshott

    There is no reason for inserting a discussion of Hayek and cognitive science in the assessment of Oakeshott's philosophical contribution. In closing I must -- reluctantly -- say something about Robert Grant's contribution. It has no place in this volume.