If someone asks me that question, I will tell them, "I have none."
I have read a number of other people writing about Spencer's work. I have read both condemnations of him as a crude social Darwinist, and defenses of him saying that the first opinion is all wet. But I have read almost nothing of what he wrote myself. And thus, I suspend judgment, until such time as I might get to read him myself.
I cite Spencer only as an example here, in particular, since I am presently reviewing a book that condemns him along the lines of the first evaluation mentioned above. But the author of the book in question has no such scruples: he summarizes hundreds of thinkers in the work (a history of liberalism), and tosses out quite definite opinions as to whether they are good, bad, or ugly. As I often do when first opening up such a book, I looked to see what he wrote about thinkers with whom I am very familiar. I found he had sections devoted to Oakeshott and Hayek, and read through them. I must say, I was appalled. It is fine to criticize Oakeshott or Hayek, and I have my own criticisms of each of them on various points. But it is really not on to sketch a cartoon Oakeshott, or a cartoon Hayek, and then criticize that cartoon.
But the purpose of a book like the one I am reviewing is not too seriously engage the hundreds of thinkers mentioned in it: How could an author possibly do that in a book of a few hundred pages? No, the purpose of a book such as this one is to enable people to sound informed at highbrow cocktail parties or on an "intellectual" Sunday-morning talk show: When Oakeshott's name comes up, the reader of the book can say, "Yes, well, his thought might apply to a static society in which nothing ever changes, but it hardly applies to ours!" The service provided by these books is to provide its readers with a compendium of factoids and prepackaged, soundbite ready opinion, so that they can appear informed, without ever actually having to engage in any serious thought.
"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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