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New Left Review I/221, January-February 1997

Ernest Gellner

Reply to Critics

It is a great honour to have elicited comments from such a distinguished assembly of scholars and thinkers, and I feel greatly moved by this. [1] This is an extract from Ernest Gellner’s ‘Reply to Critics’, published inJohn A. Hall and Ian Jarvie, eds, The Social Philosophy of Ernest Gellner, Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, Amsterdam 1996. The passage on segmentation has been omitted. The papers range over a large number of topics and more than one of them leaves me feeling out of my depth, conceptually or in terms of scholarship. To reply to each of them in turn would be a very major undertaking, and though it would no doubt be very rewarding for me, by forcing me to fill gaps in my knowledge and face up to inadequacies of my arguments, it might turn out to be less than readable for others. In the light of this consideration, it has seemed to me best to single out some of the major themes which occur repeatedly in these essays, and comment on the individual criticisms in connection with these themes, thereby paying my critics the compliment of rational opposition (Jane Austen’s phrase) which they so amply deserve (unlike the character in the novel who provoked the use of this expression).

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