Michael Oakeshott: An Introduction

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In this book Paul Franco provides an authoritative introduction to the life and thought of Michael Oakeshott, one of the most important philosophical voices of the twentieth century. After sketching a brief biography of Oakeshott, Franco examines his most distinctive ideas, including his early idealist theory of knowledge, his influential critique of rationalism and central social planning, and his liberal theory of civil association. The author argues that Oakeshott makes important contributions both to conservatism and to liberal theory, and he compares Oakeshott with such other contemporary thinkers as Hayek, Strauss, Berlin, Rawls, and Rorty.

Although best known as a political philosopher, Oakeshott also contributed significantly to the philosophy of history, aesthetics, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of education. Franco highlights Oakeshott's impressive achievements in each of these areas and particularly commends the philosopher's writings on liberal education and his pluralistic understanding of human activity in terms of the appealing and oft-invoked image of 'the conversation of mankind'. This book is an essential introduction to the whole range of Oakeshott's thought, and it sets the philosopher's work in historical context while also demonstrating its relevance to twenty-first century debates in political philosophy.

Paul Franco is professor of government, Bowdoin College.

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Yale University Press
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