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Priestley: Political Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521415408
ISBN-10: 0521415403
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Comment: EX-UNIVERSITY LIBRARY, 1993 hardcover edition with typical property and withdrawal markings. Lightly circulated. Light wear to cover/pages. No dust jacket. Good condition except for Library markings. Binding tight. See our full profile for more about our Ex-Library items.
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was arguably the most important English theorist to focus on the issue of political liberty during the English Enlightenment. This new collection will be the first to render accessible his Essay on First Principles, The Present State of Liberty and the Letter of Advice.

About the Author

Miller serves as convener of the Department of Accounting and Finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Raymond Geuss is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He has taught widely in Germany and the United States, and has been an editor of the series of Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought since its inception. His previous books include The Idea of a Critical Theory (Cambridge, 1981, ISBN 0521 284228), Morality, Culture, and History (Cambridge, 1999, ISBN 0 521 635683), and Public Goods, Private Goods (Princeton, 2001). He has also published a collection of classical verse in his own English translations, Parrots, Poets, and Philosophers & Good Advice (London, 1999).

Quentin Skinner is Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academia Europaea, and a foreign member of many other learned societies. His scholarship, which is available in more than twenty languages, has won him numerous awards, including the Wolfson Prize for History in 1979 and a Balzan Prize in 2006. His books include The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (2 volumes, 1978), Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (1996), Liberty Before Liberalism (1998), Hobbes and Republican Liberty (2008), Forensic Shakespeare (2014) and a three-volume collection of essays, Visions of Politics (2002). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought
  • Hardcover: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June 25, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521415403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521415408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,676,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Joseph Priestley is one of the greatest intellectual figures of modern times. However, he should be remembered for more than just his great discoveries in the realm of science. His "Essay on the First Principles of Government" is a brilliant libertarian piece based on natural rights philosophy. He is a strong enemy of both established religion and public schooling. His eloquent advocacy of these positions as well as "freedom of thought" as a whole is still very much relevant today. It is a shame that his works have been so overlooked in recent times. This work is yet another example of how the wisdom of the 18th century is far greater than that of the 20th in many fields, most importantly political philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
This is a well-presented version of Joseph Priestley's Essay on the First Principles of Government, with another essay dealing inter alia with the rights of the American colonists. Priestley of course ended his life in America.

The First Principles expounds Priestley's views as a dissenter that the State should not interfere with the Church and he extends this general idea to education. He bases this on the principle that knowledge is dispersed through society and so those in charge should have limited rights to impose their presuppositions on the rest of society. He also praises freedom of intellectual inquiry. Here he sounds like a Christian version of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. It is interesting that Mill's views were first developed separately from his secularising philosophy as a critique of the Anglican settlement.

I can't fault the editorial apparatus, though the title 'Political Writings' is maybe a bit of an anachronism and misnomer given that Priestley's main concern is with the liberty of the Church, particularly the small dissenting Presbyterian Church in England that at the time had adopted his Unitarian principles. This was a much better book than I was expecting and deserves to be put above John Locke's Letter on Toleration on political reading lists.
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