Michael Oakeshott: Experience and Its Modes

Cambridge University Press, 1986 (1933)     Amazon.com

Book Description:

This classic work is here published for the first time in paperback in recognition of its enduring importance. Its theme is Modality: human experience recognized as a variety of independent, self-consistent worlds of discourse, each the invention of human intelligence, but each also to be understood as abstract and an arrest in human experience. The theme is pursued in a consideration of the practical, the historical and the scientific modes of understanding.
“Mr Oakeshott’s thesis…is so original, so important and so profound that criticism must be silent until his meaning has been long pondered…the chapter on history is the most penetrating analysis of historical thought that has ever been written…the whole book shows Mr Oakeshott to possess philosophical gifts of a very high order, coupled with an admirable command of language; his writing is as clear as his thought is profound, and all students of philosophy should be grateful to him for his brilliant contribution to philosophical literature.”  R. G. Collingwood, The Cambridge Review
JOB’s Comment:
A central work in twentieth-century idealism. I will comment briefly on it, and show how I think Oakeshott’s positions must be modified in view of other idealist positions I defend (not least with regard to the “independence” of the modes of experience), in my series of posts entiteld ‘Idealism and the Renewal of Humanistic Philosophy’. Oakeshott was also a – probably the – leading twentieth-century British conservative philosopher, and I should say something on occasion about the relation between his idealism and his conservatism too. However, I find this early work to be his most important, and have problems with some of his own later revisions of his philosophical positions.

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Ramana Maharshi