Reason, scepticism and politics : theory and practice in the Enlightenment's politics
This thesis is concerned to discuss two related questions in political theory. First, the relationship of 'theory' and 'practice', concentrating specifically on the relationship between 'philosophy' and 'polities'; and, secondly, how the political theory of the eighteenth century Enlightenment is helpful in revealing an answer to the first problem. In order to encompass this dual task, the thesis is divided into three parts. Part One, 'Philosophy in its Place', delineates two trends in modern political thought that most explicitly bracket off the theoretical and the practical. It goes on to discuss the thesis of Alisdair Maclntyre in AFTER VIRTUE, that it was the Enlightenment that was, in fact, the intellectual origin of these two trends. Chapter Two of Part One, continues this discussion by considering recent adaptations of the central claims (such as that offered by Bernard Williams), and challenges to them from thinkers who emphasise the methodological importance of the history of thought (such as Maclntyre himself, and Richard Rorty). It concludes with an analysis of an issue central to the discussions of all three thinkers: incommensurability. Part Two, 'Theory and Practice in the Enlightenment’s Politics ', consists of three chapters which together offer an interpretation of the Enlightenment's reflections on the relation between theory and practice and, specifically, of the two thinkers most important for this question, Hume and Kant. The analysis also discusses rival interpretations and concentrates specifically on refuting Maclntyre's arguments in AFTER VIRTUE on the nature, character and implications of Enlightenment thought. Part Three, 'Bringing Philosophy Back In', ties these various threads together by first discussing the methodological questions set out in Part One in more detail, and then by showing how the Enlightenment's thought on this topic is still of the utmost importance for modern political theorists and why this should be so.