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(p.1) Introduction
Sophistry and Political Philosophy
Robert C. Bartlett
University of Chicago Press

Political philosophy appears to have been supplanted in our time by the study of the history of political philosophy, on the one hand, and by self-described sophistry, on the other.1 The laborious cataloguing of the thought of past masters or the creation of new discourses (“narratives”) that support a given moral-political agenda but expressly reject any claim to have discovered the eternal truth or to rest on any rock-solid “metaphysical” foundation—these seem to be the only serious alternatives available at present to a student of political thought. And sophistry may well be the weightier of them, for its practitioners—antifoundationalists, postmodernists of various stripes—are still sufficiently moved by their concern for the eternal truth to acknowledge fully and frankly that they can discern no such thing in the world. As for the historians, while understandably absorbed by the task of arriving at accurate interpretations of the books under study, they too often fail to ask whether those books are, as they claim to be, true....

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