Oakeshott’s Critique of Sovereignty of Reason
Damian Ilodigwe

One of the best known aspects of Oakeshott’s philosophy is his critique of rationalism. Because it is often read in a manner that dissociates it from the larger milieu in which it subsists, namely, Oakeshotts’s philosophy of experience, Oakeshott is sometimes labeled as an enemy of politics, one who is uninterested in political affairs; or, again, as a conservative, one who is at odds with modernity. Yet it remains to be seen whether these labels do justice to the complexity of Oakeshott. Indeed, if Oakeshott’s critique of rationalism is inserted into the background of his philosophy of experience as articulated in Experience and its Modes, we begin to see that Oakeshott’s concern in his critique of rationalism is to separate political activity from political theorization and ground ideology in tradition, so that with a bit of detachment from political experience, the philosopher of politics can assume philosophy’s oversight function in critically interrogating the assumption behind political activity and political theorization, with a view to underscoring the limits of ideological politics and the priority of tradition. Our contention is that this way of looking at Oakeshott’s critique of the sovereignty of reason allows for a better appreciation of the contemporary relevance of Oakeshott’s contributions to political discourse.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jppg.v5n1a3