Michael Oakeshott’s interest in religion and theology was especially prominent in his essays of the 1920s and 1930s. This book consists of four important unpublished pieces, together with six essays by Oakeshott that originally appeared in remote and inaccessible journals. Much of the collection was written early in his career and reveals not only Oakeshott’s initial intellectual preoccupations but the idiosyncratic nature of his religious outlook and the moral convictions that governed his own life. The opening essay, "Religion and the World," which dates from 1925, reflects his view of what it means to live "religiously" in the world and prefigures arguments later elaborated in Experience and Its Modes.
All the essays probe the meaning of words commonly—but often inappropriately—used in the discussion of political life. Thus Oakeshott explores meanings of religion and worldliness, society and sociality, authority and the state, political activity, and the character of political ideas and political philosophy. His writing is persuasive and compelling, and the essays are distinguished by great clarity and a genuinely philosophic spirit.
In a substantial introduction, Timothy Fuller provides the first full explanation of Oakeshott’s religious ideas, setting them within their philosophical and political contexts. He shows how, over a thirty-year period, Oakeshott elaborated the implications of Experience and Its Modes, worked out his political theory as summarized in Rationalism in Politics, and gradually assembled his own philosophical account of the ideal that European civilization had made concrete in history—civil association under the rule of law—and to which he gave definitive expression in On Human Contact.
Timothy Fuller is Dean of the College, Colorado College, and editor of The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education.