Subjective idealism can be defined as the view that ‘the objective world independent of man does not exist; it is the product of man's subjective cognitive abilities, sensations, and perceptions’. George Berkeley often is said to be the founder of this species of idealism, and when someone wants to offer an example of a subjective idealist, Berkeley is usually the first person who comes to mind. However, those making this claim largely seem to be only passingly familiar with Berkeley’s work, (...) sometimes to the point that there have been doubts they had even read him. Meanwhile, many serious readers of Berkeley have rejected this reading of Berkeley, showing that it relies on a neglect of many of Berkeley’s own claims. How has this gulf between the common impression of Berkeley and the views of many of his most attentive readers arisen and been sustained? This paper suggests that, to a large extent, it has been due to neglecting to set Berkeley’s work in its proper historical context. (shrink)
This paper aims to persuade its reader that libertarianism, at least in several of its varieties, is a species of the genus Michael Oakeshott referred to as ‘rationalism in politics’. I hope to demonstrate, employing the work of Oakeshott, as well as Aristotle and Onora O’Neill, how many libertarian theorists, who generally have a sincere and admirable commitment to personal liberty, have been led astray by the rationalist promise that we might be able to approach deductive certainty concerning the 'correctness' (...) of some political programme. Of course libertarians, in common with the adherents of almost any other political ‘stance’, are not a monolithic body, but exhibit a variety of more or less rationalist arguments for their views. For example, a thinker like Hayek, who is often placed in the libertarian camp, came to adopt much of Oakeshott’s critique of rationalism in his later work. And, of course, Oakeshott himself expressed an affinity for libertarian ideas in his essay, ‘The Political Economy of Freedom’ (1991 ). But a general predilection to enhance individual freedom as far as is deemed practicable is quite a different matter from taking a stance in which liberty, and liberty conceived in a rather narrow fashion, is the only value deemed admissible into ‘reasonable’ political discourse. (We will see in a subsequent section that Oakeshott recognized this urge to sanctify one value above all others as a logical requirement of striving for deductive political truths.) I believe that a critique of such libertarian rationalism is particularly relevant given the present situation in the United States vis-à-vis civil rights and the ongoing ‘war on terror’, in that many non- libertarian supporters of peace and strong civil rights find themselves allied with libertarians on these issues—if libertarians have gotten these issues ‘correct’, then how might they have gone wrong elsewhere? Furthermore, the critique may aid libertarians themselves, because, if the title of this paper is accurate, such a single-minded exaltation of one value above all others is an enemy of true liberty, so that libertarians might want to rethink adopting such a position. As Philip Pettit demonstrates (1997), freedom as non-domination is more robust and inclusive of all that we value about freedom than is the libertarian concept of freedom as non-interference; by allowing, say, immense economic power to be concentrated in a single corporation, as intervention to break the company up would violate the principle of non-interference, libertarian ideas may greatly diminish the liberty of the people subject to that corporate power. (shrink)
Peter Winch famously critiqued Michael Oakeshott's view of human conduct. He argued that Oakeshott had missed the fact that truly human conduct is conduct that 'follows a rule.' This paper argues that, as is sometimes the case with Oakeshott, what seems, on the surface, to be a disagreement with another, somewhat compatible thinker about a matter of detail in some social theory in fact turns out to point to a deeper philosophical divide. In particular, I contend, Winch, as typical of (...) those who only picked up on Oakeshott's work in the 1940s and 1950s, when Oakeshott became known for his critique of rationalism, failed to understand the idealist metaphysics underlying that critique. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Nassim Taleb?s dismissal of history as based on the ?narrative fallacy??which reads our present knowledge of past events into our reconstruction of the past?is based on a fundamental misconception of what historians actually do. Historians do not, as Taleb presumes, try to infer general, predictive laws from ?hard? facts, as do natural scientists; instead their aim is to discover the causes of unique historical facts among antecedent facts. This is no different, in principle, from ?narrating? the cause of a (...) supernova by referring to physical causes. The construction of universal historical laws would admittedly be a fool?s errand, but that is not the task historians?as opposed to historicists?actually set for themselves. (shrink)
Often different schools or styles of doing economics are seen as inevitably at odds with each other, so that one must be crowned 'correct' and the others vanquished as defective. However, if they actually represent alternative but potentially enlightening views of economic phenomena, then it will be foolish exclusively to pursue one approach at the expense of all others. This paper argues that the latter is a more accurate view of economics than is the former.
A number of social theorists have contended that the essence of historical analysis is the employment of ideal types to comprehend past goings-on. But, while acknowledging that the study of history through ideal types can yield genuine insight, we may still ask if it represents the full emancipation of historical understanding from other modes of conceiving the past. This paper follows Michael Oakeshott's work on the philosophy of history in arguing that explaining the historical past by means of ideal types, (...) even though offering a coherent and fruitful enterprise, nevertheless falls short of fully embodying the characteristics that differentiate historical understanding. -/- This dispute involves fundamental issues regarding the nature of the social sciences. Furthermore, I suggest that it is of more than purely theoretical interest, in that social theorists who have accepted the Weberian view of historical inquiry will tend to be unaware of the defects inherent in all attempts to capture the nature of past events in a net of generalizations, and thus may be lead to ignore the inherent partiality of the understanding of historical happenings provided by ideal typification. (shrink)
Jeffrey Friedman has attempted to make a case for limiting state social engineering that is based on the skeptical epistemology of Sir Karl Popper. But Popper's epistemology is flawed, both in its rejection of a priori theorizing and its insistence on empirical falsification rather than confirmation. Classical liberalism of the sort that Friedman advocates requires, as its basis, positive knowledge of economics and social reality?not Popperian skepticism.
ONE OF THE MOST prominent theorists of anarcho-capitalism is Hans- Hermann Hoppe. In what is perhaps his most famous result, the argumentation ethic for libertarianism, he purports to establish an a priori defense of the justice of a social order based exclusively on pri- vate property. Hoppe claims that all participants in a debate must presuppose the libertarian principle that every person owns himself, since the principle underlies the very concept of argumentation. Some libertarians (e.g., Rothbard 1988) have celebrated Hoppe’s (...) argument as the final nail in the coffin for collectivism of any type; following Hoppe, they believe that to deny the libertarian ethic is not only wrong, but also internally contradictory. On the other hand, a number of other prominent libertarians characterized Hoppe’s initial statement of his case as “one muddle after another” (Steele 1988, p. 47) or “a tissue of bald assertions” (Yeager 1988, p. 45). (shrink)
The paper aims to explore what it means for something to be a social cycle, for a theory to be a social cycle theory, and to offer a suggestion for a simple, yet, we believe, fundamentally grounded schema for categorizing them. We show that a broad range of cycle theories can be described within the concept of disruption and adjustments. Further, many important cycle theories are true endogenous social cycle theories in which the theory provides a reason why the cycle (...) should recur. We find that many social cycle theories fit with a two-population disruption and adjustment model similar to the well-known predator-prey model. This implies that a general modeling framework could be established for creating agent-based models of many social cycle theories. (shrink)