1st Edition

Rationality in Politics and its Limits

Edited By Terry Nardin Copyright 2016
    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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).