Research Article

The Four Points of the Compass1

James Alexandera1 c1

a1 Bilkent University, Ankara


Philosophy has four forms: wonder, faith, doubt and scepticism. These are not separate categories, but separate ideal possibilities. Modern academic philosophy has fallen, for several centuries, into an error: which is the error of supposing that philosophy is only what I call doubt. Philosophy may be doubt: indeed, it is part of my argument that this is undeniably one element of, or one possibility in, philosophy; but doubt is only one of four points of the compass. In this essay I indicate the nature of each point of the compass as it has been found in the history of philosophy.

(Online publication January 05 2012)

James Alexander teaches in the Department of Politics, Bilkent University, Ankara. He is the author of Shaw's Controversial Socialism (2009), A Life of Frederick Bulmer, 1865–1941 (2009), ‘Oakeshott on Hegel's “injudicious” use of the word “state” in History of Political Thought (2011), and Oakeshott as Philosopher in The Cambridge Companian to Oakeshott (forthcoming 2012).


1 This essay, written in Downing College, Cambridge in April 2011, is indebted to the writings cited below, but perhaps especially to the writings of D.C. Stove and S.R.L. Clark. They have suggested to me that breadth is still possible in modern philosophy – something I had begun to doubt.