• The Skeptical Life in Hume's Political Thought
    Polity 33 (1): 77-99. 2000.
    David Hume's political thought is shaped by an expansively conceived skepticism. For Hume, "mitigated skepticism" is a way of life rather than a mere philosophical conclusion. It entails not only philosophical doubt, but also a variety of practical, methodological, ethical, and political commitments. Skeptics acquire these commitments by living a life devoted to philosophy, reading, learned conversation, and ordinary business in a modern society. They in turn may profoundly influence political p…Read more
  • Oakeshott's Politics for Gentlemen
    The Review of Politics 69 (2): 244-272. 2007.
    Michael Oakeshott's concerns about political developments in twentieth-century Europe seem to shape his philosophical writings. Yet Oakeshott persistently portrays himself as a philosopher who has little practical interest in politics. This essay argues that Oakeshott's genteel conception of the good life leads him to develop a political doctrine for practical reasons while disclaiming any practical motives. His diagnosis of collectivist politics in the 1930s reluctantly solicits a philosophical…Read more
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    Scholars frequently assume that David Hume, Edmund Burke, and Michael Oakeshott are radically skeptical, anti-rational, anti-philosophical, or anti-foundational political thinkers. These three philosophers' supposed endeavors to answer questions about politics and practical life without reference to epistemological, metaphysical, or even logical assumptions about the fundamental character of the human condition are responsible for much of their contemporary allure. ;However, this characterizatio…Read more
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    The Samaritan State and Social Welfare Provision
    Res Publica 24 (2): 217-236. 2018.
    Christopher Wellman and some allied scholars argue that a ‘samaritan theory’ can justify state coercion. They also suppose that states may provide robust, social egalitarian welfare provisions for a variety of reasons that would arise within samaritan states. However, the most promising reasons—samaritanism itself, natural socialism, relational equality, and anti-crime paternalism—cannot support robust provision without discarding the strong presumption favoring individual liberty which must mot…Read more
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    This book develops an “idiomatic” foundational theory of the self and its moral obligations. It then employs this theory to answer a variety of questions about legal obligation, political authority, community, and international justice. It argues that we ought to obey a particular community’s laws and government commands, so long as our government restricts itself to protecting classical liberty and individual property rights under the rule of law. It further argues that people today should idea…Read more