a1 University of South Africa
What is the principal function of political philosophy? This question has long been the source of discourse and debate, especially amongst those who practise this ancient art. For Ronald Beiner, the primary and proper function of political philosophy is, always has been, and forever will be, to expand our analytical horizons and thereby improve our ability to judge accurately the desirability and subsequent acceptability of our existing social order(s). Beiner contends, however, that contemporary theorists have so restricted the scope and focus of their investigations that political philosophy is no longer able to fulfil its intended function. This is a theme which has animated much of Beiner's recent work, and provides the foundation and focus for his book Philosophy in a Time of Lost Spirit: Essays on Contemporary Theory (PTS), the subject of this essay.
* Ronald Beiner, Philosophy in a Time of Lost Spirit: Essays on Contemporary Theory (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), xiv + 240 pp., $24.95 paper. Page references are to this work.