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In the first half of the twentieth century, the rationalist tide had reached its high mark[1]. For example, in architecture and city planning, rationalism would sweep away that unnecessary clutter of old prejudices that restrained traditional architecture and customary urban organization and build the modern, functional buildings and communities that people truly needed.[2] Traditional work practices were to be rejected…

Tradition V. Rationalism: Voegelin, Oakeshott, Hayek, and Others. Lee Trepanier and Eugene Callahan, eds. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2018.
 
We live in strange times. Anyone following educational trends will have noticed that the culture wars are filtering into even the hard sciences. To the wider world this might be perplexing but to readers of this website none of this is surprising. Science…

The British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) was one of the more sophisticated conservative thinkers of the twentieth century.[1] However, while he was once a fairly well-known and reasonably widely-read figure in America, since the 1980s his profile this side of the Atlantic has continually waned. Today one is more likely to hear Friedrich von Hayek, Russell Kirk, or Ronald…

Anamnesis is a remembering or recollection of the orienting truths of existence that ought never to be forgotten. Mircea Eliade, in his Myth and Reality, wrote that anamnesis is the recovery of “truths, that is, structures of the real.”[1] The recovery, remembrance, or rediscovery of those structures are evocative experiences of being as it confronts, awakes and re-awakens consciousness to…

"Rationalism," in the sense meant in this essay, might be understood as the idea that abstract thought, deducing answers to questions from first principles, is always superior to "mere" tradition, custom, and practical know-how. In the first half of the twentieth century, this rationalist ideal dominated elite thinking. The arts, child rearing, and business management were to be revolutionized according…

For the past two hundred years or so, philosophers, sociologists, and political theorists who have been skeptical about the claims of modern scientistic or rationalistic epistemology have relied upon some version of the concept of tacit knowledge or one of its cognates to support an alternative account of the grounds of human beliefs and actions.[1]  These thinkers have claimed that…

The thought of Thomas Hobbes is a living force in philosophic reflection on modern politics. Yet many insist that an era of political philosophy, roughly beginning with Hobbes, is at an end or rapidly approaching it. To speak generally, but within the framework of much contemporary discourse, it is “liberalism” which is in crisis and specifically the “liberalism” which traces…

Oakeshott on Rome and America. Eugene Callahan. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2012.
 
Oakeshott’s critique of Rationalism is the most famous part of his corpus and also the most misunderstood and controversial. From the 1940s and into the 1960s it was bold and necessary to criticize the ideological style of politics and large scale social planning. Since the predominant tendency of post-war…

The Meaning of Michael Oakeshott's Conservatism. Corey Abel, ed. Exeter, U.K.: Imprint Academic, 2010.

 
Michael Oakeshott has always been a bit outside the mainstream of the conservative movement. This is true despite the fact that his essay “On Being Conservative” often shows up in anthologies of conservative thought or collections on “ideals and ideologies.” Ironically, a major thrust of Oakeshott’s…

Michael Oakeshott on Religion, Aesthetics, and Politics. Elizabeth Campbell Corey. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006.
 
What is so fascinating about the philosophical writings of the English philosopher, Michael Oakeshott, is his “continual protest” against modernity’s perception of man as amendable to a mechanical rather than a moral interpretation, the consequent negation of man as an “agent of truth,” and…