Latest Issue

The Habsburg dilemma

Ernest Gellner was a brilliant polemicist, but his partisan history of ideas is a crude caricature of modern European thought.

By John Gray   April 1999

Language and solitude by Ernest Gellner (Cambridge University Press 1998, £12.95)

There are two fundamental theories of knowledge. These two theories stand in stark contrast to each other. They represent two poles of looking, not merely at knowledge, but at life. Aligned with these two polar views of knowledge, there are… theories of society, of man, of everything. This chasm cuts right across our social landscape.”

These opening lines of Language and Solitude, Ernest Gellner’s last book, published posthumously (he died in 1995), embody the style and tone of his thought. The tone is dogmatic and uncompromising, the style impressionistic…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect