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By Timothy Michael

What position may still cause play within the construction of a unfastened and simply society? will we declare to grasp whatever in a box as complicated as politics? and the way can the reason for political rationalism be complicated whilst it truly is visible as having blood on its palms? those are the questions that occupied a gaggle of British poets, philosophers, and polemicists within the years following the French Revolution.

Timothy Michael argues that a lot literature of the interval is an ordeal, or a critique, of cause in its political capacities and a try of the types of data on hand to it. For Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Godwin, the ancient series of revolution, counter-revolution, and terror in France―and radicalism and repression in Britain―occasioned a dramatic reassessment of ways top to develop the venture of enlightenment. The political considered those figures needs to be understood, Michael contends, within the context in their philosophical suggestion. significant poems of the interval, together with The Prelude, The Excursion, and Prometheus Unbound, are during this studying an adjudication of competing political and epistemological claims.

This ebook bridges for the 1st time conventional pillars of Romantic stories: the period’s politics and its theories of the brain and information. Combining literary and highbrow background, it presents an account of British Romanticism during which excessive rhetoric, political prose, poetry, and poetics converge in a discourse of enlightenment and emancipation.

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Even as he adheres to empiricism in strictly epistemological contexts, he wishes to emancipate po­liti­cal knowledge from the limits placed on it by experience, sensation, habit, and sentiment. An autonomous reason, for Godwin, is the only faculty that can provide us with the kind of knowledge that brings with it liberty and justice. The turn to the mind in Po­liti­cal Justice is accompanied by a simultaneous turn to language, a strategy continued in Cursory Strictures (1794). ”85 In both texts, Godwin pays special attention to the various ways in which speech is governed and sees in this government of speech—­both its virtuous cultivation and its vicious abuse—­the determination of opinion that is the basis of his system.

8 The theme of suitability is sounded also in book 10 of the 1805 Prelude, a book containing some of the poem’s most inspired verse and largely devoted to the claims of reason in politics. Here Words­worth describes the point in his life—­the summer of 1792 when firsthand experience of the French Revolution deepened his theoretical interest in it—­when he began To think with fervour upon management Of Nations, what it is and ought to be, And how their worth depended on their Laws And on the Constitution of the State.

The argument is premised on a distinction between two types of knowledge: “technical” knowledge, which is capable of formulation, and “practical” knowledge, which is not. In Oakeshott’s view, rationalism asserts that technical knowledge is the only true type of knowledge and attempts to govern accordingly. It neglects the kind of practical knowledge that is inexpressible (though he insists he refers to nothing like “esoteric” knowledge). ”70 Godwin, Bentham, Marx, and Engels are for Oakeshott the great representatives of the type, though it has its roots in Descartes and Bacon.

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