Synopses & Reviews
On Human Conduct
is composed of three connected essays. Each has its own concern: the first with theoretical understanding, and with human conduct in general; the second with an ideal mode of human relationship which the author has called civil association; and the third with that ambiguous, historic association commonly called a modern European state.
Running through the work is Professor Oakshott's belief in philosophical reflection as an adventure: the adventure of one who seeks to understand in other terms what he already understands, and where the understanding is sought is a disclosure of the conditions of the understanding enjoyed and not a substitute for it. Its most appropriate expression is an essay, which, he writes, "does not dissemble the conditionality of the conclusions it throws up and although it may enlighten it does not instruct."
"Oakeshott presents three essays: on the theoretical understanding of human conduct, on the civil condition as the ideal mode of human association, and on the modern European state....His book is like a long elegant conversation--sometimes rather abstract, always with a keen eye for concrete exemplification, learned, analytical, and full of trenchant insights."--Library Journal
"This majestic work by the greatest living British philosopher of conservative disposition is preeminently a grand adventure....Oakeshott has here added to our common stock one more such distinction--the one between rule-governed associations and purpose-governed associations. In so doing, he has given us a fresh and memorable definition of political liberty. And that, besides so much else, is cause for gratitude and celebration."--National Review
This two-volume biography has been universally acclaimed as the definitive life of the leading light of the Harlem Renaissance.