Michael Oakeshott, 1901 - 1990

In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination. The enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel; the sea is both friend and enemy; and the seamanship consists in using the resources of a traditional manner of behaviour in order to make a friend of every hostile occasion.

— Michael Oakeshott

Biography

British political philosopher Michael Joseph Oakeshott was born on December 11, 1901, in Chelsfield, Kent, one of three boys in the family of Frances and Joseph Oakeshott. In 1912 he was sent to St. George’s School in Harpenden, a progressive coeducational boarding school. There he met the young woman, Joyce Fricker, who would become his first wife. He went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1920, graduating in 1923.
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Introduction

As someone once observed, Oakeshott was a philosopher down to the tips of his toes. Yet he did not consider himself a “professional” philosopher of the sort who might turn up in the philosophy departments of universities. “Thinking,” he explained, “is not a professional matter; if it were, it would be something much less important than I take it to be.”
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Featured Video

Columnist Andrew Sullivan reflects on his discovery of the writings of Michael Oakeshott.