The word ‘rationality’ and its cognates, like ‘reason’, have multiple contexts and connotations. Rational calculation can be contrasted with rational interpretation. There is the rationality of proof and of persuasion, of tradition and of the criticism of tradition. Rationalism (and rationalists) can be reasonable or unreasonable. Reason is sometimes distinguished from revelation, superstition, convention, prejudice, emotion, and chance, but all of these also involve reasoning. In politics, three views of rationality – economic, moral, and historical – have been especially important, often defining approaches to politics and political theory such as utilitarianism and rational choice theory. These approaches privilege positive or natural law, responsibilities, or human rights, and emphasize the importance of culture and tradition, and therefore meaning and context.
This book explores the understanding of rationality in politics and the relations between different approaches to rationality. Among the topics considered are the limits of rationality, the role of imagination and emotion in politics, the meaning of political realism, the nature of political judgment, and the relationship between theory and practice. This book was originally published as a special issue of Global Discourse.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Rationality in politics and its limits Terry Nardin
2. Political philosophy and the attraction of realism Paul Kelly
Reply - Realism and imagination: a response to Kelly Luke O’Sullivan
3. Hobbes and human irrationality Sandra Leonie Field
Reply - Sovereigns and citizens: a response to Field Luke O’Sullivan
4. Reason, statecraft and the art of war: a politique reassessment David Martin Jones
Reply - Morality and contingency: a response to Jones Jeremy Arnold
5. Thumos and rationality in Plato’s Republic Christina Tarnopolsky
Reply - Argument and imagination: a reply to Tarnopolsky Hui-Chieh Loy
6. ‘A habitual disposition to the good’: on reason, virtue and realism Adrian Pabst
Reply - Reason, faith and modernity: a response to Pabst William Bain
7. Oakeshott on theory and practice Terry Nardin
Reply - Oakeshott on the theory-practice problem: a reply to Terry Nardin Steven B. Smith
8. Franz Jägerstätter as social critic Peter D. Finn
Reply - The social critic and universal morality: a response to Finn Heather M. Roff
Reply - Reply to Roff Peter D. Finn
Terry Nardin is Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Law, Morality, and the Relations of States (1983) and The Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott (2001), and editor of Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism (2014).