Harvey Mansfield Interview

Interview with Bruce Cole, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2007.


BRUCE COLE: How would you describe your scholarly activity or intellectual interests?

HARVEY MANSFIELD The book I recently published on manliness is my most topical and has attracted the most attention by far. That has a good amount of political philosophy in it, political philosophy being my subject and my love. But it also has some literature and even some science, social psychology, and evolutionary biology. Before that, I did a series of books on Edmund Burke and Niccolo Machiavelli, on liberalism, on executive power, and on Tocqueville.

COLE: You’re a political scientist.


COLE What does a political scientist do?

MANSFIELD: A political scientist is supposed to study politics. There is a great division among political scientists, between those who use mathematical methods and those who don’t. I’m very much in the second group, and there’s a kind of—war is too strong a word—conflict between those ways of studying politics. The main difference between them is whether you begin from political issues that actually exist, say, for example, the issue today over abortion, or whether you try to distance yourself from current politics and abstract from it using mathematical formulae of one kind or another.