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Oakeshott, Michael Joseph (1901–90)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD049-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Although Michael Oakeshott was in his own time a lone figure in a philosophical world dominated by Oxford analysis, he has come to be recognized as the most notable British political philosopher of the twentieth century. He is best known for his view that political activity is neither purely empirical nor the application of ideas, but ‘the pursuit of intimations’. His image of culture as a conversation between different kinds of understanding has been widely accepted. Oakeshott first became celebrated in attacking what he called ‘rationalism’ in the Cambridge Journal (which he edited) in 1947. Oakeshott’s rationalist is a restless political meddler who believes that politics is putting ideas into effect. The fullest statement of his political philosophy is On Human Conduct (1975), in which the modern state is understood as a tension between civil and enterprise association. Exploring the idea of a civil association is perhaps Oakeshott’s most notable contribution to political philosophy.

Citing this article:
Minogue, Kenneth. Oakeshott, Michael Joseph (1901–90), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD049-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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