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Feb 01, 2012
| ISBN 9781844677580
Jun 10, 2014
| ISBN 9781844678457
Also available from:
Feb 01, 2012 | ISBN 9781844677580
Jun 10, 2014 | ISBN 9781844678457
Ernest Gellner was a multilingual polymath who set the agenda in the study of nationalism and the sociology of Islam for an entire generation of academics and students. This definitive biography follows his trajectory from his early years in Prague, Paris and England to international success as a philosopher and public intellectual. Known both for his highly integrated philosophy of modernity and for combining a respect for nationalism with an appreciation for science, Gellner was passionate in his defence of reason against every for of relativism.
Ernest Gellner (1925–95) was a multilingual polymath and a public intellectual who set the agenda in the study of nationalism and the sociology of Islam. Having grown up in Paris, Prague, and England, he was also one of the last great Jewish thinkers from Central Europe to experience directly the impact of the Holocaust. His intellectual trajectory differed from that of similar thinkers, both in producing a highly integrated philosophy of modernity and in combining a respect for nationalism with an appreciation of the power of modern science. Gellner was a fierce opponent, in private as well as in public, of such contemporaries as Michael Oakeshott, Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor, Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. As this definitive biography shows, he was passionate in the defense of reason against every form of relativism—a battle that his intellectual inheritors continue to this day.
“The cumulative effect is monumental—and a monument does seem overdue.”—Scott McLemee, National“Gellner has been brought back to life—alongside his combative ideas and his maverick approach to intellectual combat—in a sympathetic but by no means reverential biography by his former pupil John A. Hall.”—Wall Street Journal“Few books have more successfully combined the study of personal life and intellectual development in the turbulent setting of the twentieth century.”—Eric Hobsbawn, Observer Books of the Year“John A. Hall concludes his account of Ernest Gellner by observing that his outlook on the world was austere. “But therein lies its attraction,” he goes on. “Not much real comfort for our woes is on offer; the consolations peddled in the market are indeed worthless. What Gellner offered was something more mature and demanding: cold intellectual honesty.” Brief personal impressions are rarely conclusive, especially when recalled after many years; but that Gellner was an exceptionally honest thinker is beyond reasonable doubt.”—John Gray, New Republic“Outstanding.”—Stefan Collini, London Review of Books“The theory of nationalism itself was Gellner’s life. John A. Hall’s admirable biography helps us to see how this is so, by providing essential biographical information and locating Gellner’s arguments within those of his interlocutors, friendly and otherwise … Hall, more than learned enough to follow Gellner’s very broad references, is also patient with his categorical opinions.”—Times Literary Supplement
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