Philosophy, Politics and Society

Philosophy, Politics and Society

Philosophy, Politics and Society

Philosophy, Politics and Society

Excerpt

It is one of the assumptions of intellectual life in our country that there should be amongst us men whom we think of as political philosophers. Philosophers themselves and sensitive to philosophic change, they are to concern themselves with political and social relationships at the widest possible level of generality. They are to apply the methods and the conclusions of contemporary thought to the evidence of the contemporary social and political situation. For three hundred years of our history there have been such men writing in English, from the early seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, from Hobbes to Bosanquet. To-day, it would seem, we have them no longer. The tradition has been broken and our assumption is misplaced, unless it is looked on as a belief in the possibility that the tradition is about to be resumed. For the moment, anyway, political philosophy is dead.

This calls for a certain sententiousness, and it would be easier still to be sententious about the reasons for it. We could point to events in the political arena itself, and gravely claim that they have become too serious for philosophic contemplation. Horrific is the adjective for the politics of the twentieth century, as they have been carried on between the powers, in Russia, in Germany and elsewhere. Faced with Hiroshima and with Belsen, a man is unlikely to address himself to a neat and original theory of political obligation. This argument has its force, though it happens to contradict one of the traditional explanations of why certain great thinkers of the past addressed themselves to political philosophy. It was the horror of the fall of Rome, it has so often been said, which produced in the mind of St. Augustine the political philosophy of the City of God, just as it was the terror of the English Civil War which called forth the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes and the Revolution which made Locke write on Civil Government. Though each of these two later statements happens to be untrue, it may still be the case that we have no political philosophy because politics have become too serious to be left to philosophers.

There are those who would say that it is the sociologists who have done this thing. And first amongst them are the Marxists, who have erected a system in which statements of sociological description and determinism tend to fill the function of philosophic analysis.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.