Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Reviewing A Companion to Michael Oakeshott

My friend Leslie Marsh and veteran Oakeshott scholar Paul Franco have released A Companion to Michael Oakeshott, a collection of essays by various authors (including my PhD adviser David Boucher) with Penn State Press. I'm reviewing it for Collingwood and British Idealism Studies, and so, as usual, I will post about it here as I prepare my review.

The first essay I will discuss is the first one in the book, Robert Grant's "The Pursuit of Intimacy," which details Grant's findings on Oakeshott's love life. Now, I have known for some time that Oakeshott had been a womanizer, but what is described in this essay is far more extreme than anything I had imagined. It turns out that during the late 1940s and the 1950s, Oakeshott was almost never sleeping with fewer than three women at once. A typical "courtship" technique for him was basically to stalk women until they gave in: he would, for instance, sit outside of their workplace all day, or stand outside their bedroom window in any sort of weather, a la Michael Furey. He spent so much time writing love letters that Grant notes it is surprising he ever got any work done.

A remark of a former student of his to me, that she did her PhD "under Oakeshott," takes on a whole new meaning now, doesn't it?


  1. I hate to bring up Rothbard here (well, not really), but I think you've displayed Oakeshott's "one deviation". Even if he had more than a few, it is the substance of his work that counts and upon which should be transcendent to human thinking. One should not *count* the good from the bad, instead they should differentiate them completely, and only then judge the merits and the cases of inextricability. At least, that is what I think is the proper method of approaching things.

    1. I still laugh at the old Woody Allen movies.

    2. Oh, I still value Oakeshott's writings. But this is much worse than Woody's maneuver: Oakeshott did this again and again and again, and often with his own undergraduate students.

    3. Oh! He was a tenured prof!!

      FWIW I agree with your judgment.
      When I was a grad student a female in the class moved in with the (older) head of grad studies for the department. Her marks in the course he taught were stratospheric. Some of us were ticked. I don't think tenure should protect one in this situation; I'd fire him.


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