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The Pursuits of Certainty

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The Pursuits of Certainty

David Hulme, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Beatrice Webb

Format

Paperback

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The Pursuits of Certainty by Shirley Robin Letwin
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Description

By examining the thought of four seminal thinkers, Shirley Robin Letwin in "The Pursuit of Certainty" provides a brilliant record of the gradual change in the English-speaking peoples' understanding of "what sort of activity politics is." As Letwin writes, "the distinctive political issue since the eighteenth century has been whether government should do more or less." Nor, as many historians argue, did this issue arise because of the Industrial Revolution or "new social conditions [that] aggravated the problem of poverty" but, Letwin believes, because of the "profoundly personal reflection" of major thinkers, including Hume, Bentham, Mill, and Webb. David Hume, for example, believed that to "reach for perfection, to seek an ideal, is noble, but dangerous, and is therefore an activity that individuals or voluntary groups may pursue, but governments certainly should not." By the end of the nineteenth century, as Letwin observes, Beatrice Webb came to "equate the triumph of reason over passion with the rule of science over human life." Thus did the "pursuit of certainty" displace the traditional English understanding of the limitations of human nature - hence the necessity of limits to governmental power and programs. Consequently, in our time, "Politics was no longer one of several human activities and at that not a very noble one; it encompassed all of human life" in quest of philosophical "certainty" and social perfection. This is a reprint of the original work published by Oxford in 1965.

Author Biography

Shirley Robin Letwin (1924-1993) was a Professor of Political and Legal Philosophy at Harvard, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics.
Release date NZ
January 1st, 1998
Country of Publication
United States
Imprint
Liberty Fund Inc
Pages
454
Dimensions
230x150x30
ISBN-13
9780865971950
Product ID
1834158

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