Being Otherworldly in the World: Michael Oakeshott on Religion, Aesthetics and Politics

Dissertation, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College (2004)

This dissertation is a study of the thought of Michael Oakeshott with particular emphasis on his writings about the character of religion and aesthetics. The dissertation as a whole makes the case that a certain moral vision---one informed by religious and aesthetic considerations---lies at the center of Oakeshott's thought and informs his political philosophy. The dissertation begins as an examination of Oakeshott's debts to St. Augustine and to British Idealist thinkers such as F. H. Bradley, and moves to a study of Oakeshott's own views on religion and aesthetics. It turns next to a consideration of Oakeshott's two essays entitled "The Tower of Babel," making the case that Oakeshott's views on aesthetics and morality are intimately linked in a certain kind of moral personality. It is this moral personality---one that is creative and unique to each individual---that Oakeshott finds most praiseworthy. Such a moral character underlies his political theorizing, in that such persons are those who can fully embrace Oakeshott's "politics of skepticism" and his idea of civil association. The dissertation concludes by comparing Oakeshott's conception of "Rationalism" to Eric Voegelin's idea of "Gnosticism."
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