The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance

In “The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance,” David Boucher examines the relationship of this theory of knowledge or experience to philosophical—and especially British—idealism. He makes two fundamental points about this relationship. First, he argues that although idealism was on the wane in Britain the 1920s and 1930s, Oakeshott’s brand of idealism was hardly as unfashionable as many suppose. Second, he rejects the contention that Oakeshott jettisoned or severely attenuated his idealist commitments over the course of his career, arguing instead that Oakeshott’s philosophical outlook exhibits remarkable consistency over the course of fifty years. In particular, he claims that Oakeshott never abandoned his early commitment to absolute idealism or monism and that the introduction of the analogy of conversation in “The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind” did not alter his view of philosophy. Boucher rounds off his analysis by teasing out what he takes to be the distinctive features of Oakeshott’s idealism.

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