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256 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY what happens at death is that one "wakes up.") It is not uncommon for people to have dreams within dreams, i.e., to wake up from a dream into another dream which they subsequently wake up from. O/course my present experience might be a dream. Who can doubt it? ~CHARDA. WAGON Washington University Montesquieu's Philosophy of Liberalism: ,4 Commentary on The Spirit o/ the Laws. By Thomas L. Pangle. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973) Professor Pangle's work reclaims Montescluieu as a critical theorist to be considered in any attempt to understand the American regime and the principles of modern liberalism. Among Americans, only Alexander Hamilton pointed toward the necessity of considering Montesquieu's practical proposals in theoretical terms. Hamilton justly accuses his adversaries of having grasped the "observations" from one part of Montesquieu's work without adverting to his "sentiments" in another part. Professor Pangle enables us to accept that challenge in a manner that has not been equalled since Hamilton first formulated it. According to Pangle, Montesquieu--"of the handful of thinkers" at the origins of liberalism--"emerges as the most helpful and relevant for us." Following his precursors, he subjected their principles to a "new analysis." A return to Montesquieu, therefore, should rekindle fundamental consideration of our regime: "What we require and what we do not meet with in contemporary attempts to defend the liberal, open society is a sympathetic inquiry that goes to the roots, that does not take this society's existence or its desirability for rganted..." (p. 2). What is proposed is at once a greater understanding of Montesquieu and ourselves. That such understanding is needed now, especially, results from "the modern crisis of reason itself." Liberal intellectuals are no longer capable of responding to the "dissatisfied," the "critics," since they no longer possess "faith in the validity of evaluative reason." The challenge of left liberalism has disclosed a defect of right liberalism. This work seeks to supply the defect. Because of the importance of the work, it is necessary to regard it from its most important aspect. Perhaps the most important part is footnote fifteen of chapter three, where Professor Pangle states his case for reading Montesquieu's attack on Hobbes as feigned. It is through that consideration that the defect of right liberalism emerges plainly. The chapter in which the note occurs is a consideration of "human nature and natural law," and it is essential to the interpretation of the work as a whole. Provisionally it must be said that, although it is abundantly clear that sufficient political inducement to dissociate oneself from Hobbes existed, nowhere is there drawn a principle which depicts the purpose of a feigned rejection. Equally, therefore, the reader cannot discern whether the praises and attacks on Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli are to be taken literally or as feigned. If taken literally, there arises the difficulty that the literal understanding of the latter, in fact, agrees significantly with literal understanding of the attack on Hobbes. Insofar as such agreement exists, the question arises whether all that agrees with what is feigned is equally feigned or not to be taken literally? If one answers yes, one must either deny, most significantly, that the laws of Plato were in fact held by Montesquieu to be the best laws or maintain that Montesquieu's understanding of those laws is in agreement with--not "his understanding of" but what are in fact--Hobbesian laws. The feigned attack is said to cover Montesquieu's acceptance of Hobbesian principles , and to know of what the acceptance consists we must perforce return to Hobbes. Indeed, fullest acceptance of Pangie's thesis means, as well, full acceptance of David Lowenthal's thesis that Montesquieu, in singling out the Republic as the ultimate mani- BOOK REVIEWS 257 festation of political virtue, recommends it only with respect to its practical considerations and omits altogether its highest formulations. Those formulations are the problematic status of the philosopher-king and the community of wives and children, which respectively consider the role of philosophy or wisdom and the role of eros in politics. What Pangle demonstrates is twofold: first, the Hobbesian view of nature...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 256-259
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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