Saturday, December 27, 2003

Arguing With Oakeshott, by David Brooks

New York Times

Anybody who had Elements of the Law with David Strauss knows Michael Oakeshott. Strauss seemed to think pretty highly of him. All I really remember is that Oakeshott generally thought discretion preferable to rules in the rules/standards dichotomy. Rules are only useful to settle simple questions.

Brooks portrays Oakeshott as a skeptic, critical of those who find truths, rights and wrongs, etc, because we lack sufficient information to reach those conclusions. I think Brooks finds this view a bit paralyzing, as do I. But to the extent Oakeshott makes natural rights-based thinkers second guess themselves a bit when they put their ideas in action, he's probably valuable.

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