Chapter

Ernest André Gellner 1925–1995

John A. Hall

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 120, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, II

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780197263020
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734199 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197263020.003.0008

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Ernest André Gellner 1925–1995

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Although Ernest Gellner had a successful academic career in Britain, becoming a member of the British Academy in 1974, his work was not properly understood. The fact that he was a brilliant polemicist, genuinely believing that there were devils at his back, tended to obscure his positive views. Of course, he had distinct reputations in different fields, notably as anthropologist, student of Islam, sociologist, theorist of nationalism, and philosopher. If this made him a latter day philosophe, seeking to understand modernity with whatever tools were to hand, little recognition was given to the presence of the metaphysic that lent unity and strength to all his work. As that metaphysic was based on the intense personal experience characteristic of a Central European exile of Jewish background, it is scarcely surprising that it centred on questions of identity.

Keywords: philosophers; polemicists; metaphysics; identity; Islam; theories of nationalism

Chapter.  9610 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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