The Pursuit of Intimacy, or Rationalism in Love

What about his private, intimate life? This brings us to the first essay in this volume, Robert Grant’s “The Pursuit of Intimacy, or Rationalism in Love.” As the title suggests, this essay is concerned with Oakeshott’s love life, which he considered to be not merely peripheral but in many ways the main business of his life. It is, of course, well known that Oakeshott loved women: not only did he marry three times, but he enjoyed many, many affairs throughout his life. But Grant—who is currently working on a full-length biography of Oakeshott—takes us far beyond these well-known facts. Drawing on not only the letters and notebooks in the public archive at the LSE but also private diaries and letters as well as extensive personal interviews with Oakeshott’s friends, family, and lovers, Grant shows just how central erotic love was to Oakeshott’s life and how obsessively, irrationally, selfishly, and often destructively he pursued it. This Dionysiac aspect of Oakeshott’s private life stands in stark contrast to the polished, Apollonian character of his writings and philosophy in general, and it will no doubt shock those who are familiar only with the latter. Nevertheless, it is no part of Grant’s purpose to reduce Oakeshott’s philosophy to his private life or, Nietzsche-like, to see it as a mere rationalization of his personality. Instead, he sees a more complicated dynamic at work: Oakeshott’s anti-utopian politics serve as both a counterweight and a Hobbesian foundation for his erotic utopia.

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