The English philosopher Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) is known
as a conservative who rejected philosophically ambitious
rationalism and the grand political ideologies of the twentieth
century on the grounds that no human ideas have ultimately reliable
foundations. Instead, he embraced tradition and habit as the guides
to moral and political life. In this book, Aryeh Botwinick presents
an original account of Oakeshott's skepticism about foundations, an
account that newly reveals the unity of his thought.
Botwinick argues that, despite Oakeshott's pragmatic
conservatism, his rejection of all-embracing intellectual projects
made him a friend to liberal individualism and an ally of what
would become postmodern antifoundationalism. Oakeshott's skepticism
even extended paradoxically to skepticism about skepticism itself
and is better described as a "generalized agnosticism." Properly
conceived and translated, this agnosticism ultimately evolves into
mysticism, which becomes a bridge linking philosophy and religion.
Botwinick explains and develops this strategy of interpretation and
then shows how it illuminates and unifies the diverse strands of
Oakeshott's thought in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics,
epistemology, political theory, philosophy of personal identity,
philosophy of law, and philosophy of history.
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