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Times Higher Education, 26 June More importantly, however, Skinner made a case for historicizing philosophical texts and heaped scorn on various "anachronistic mythologies" that he exposed in the "canonical" practice of intellectual historians. For instance, he criticized the mythol- ogy of coherence that he thought to be generated by synoptic profiles of thinkers, this rendering their thoughts much more consistent than they actually were.
Furthermore, Skinner took from Wittgenstein the view that historians should not seek to unravel the general semantic meanings of words but should rather investigate their concrete linguistic and hermeneutic meanings; that is, historians should explore the specific usages of words in specific contexts and above all the actual point of, and intention behind, their usages in the context of particular language games.
To refine his methodological tools, Skinner also drew on Austin's the- ory of speech acts, which enjoyed immense popularity in the scholarly community of the s and s.
In particular, he borrowed that crucial notion of the illocutionary act, which was at the heart of Austin's elaborations on "how to do things with words" and which nicely dovetailed with Wittgenstein's dictum "words are also deeds". Political Studies 42 , pp.
Scientia Poetica 8 , pp. History 89 , pp. A Critique, in: History of the Human Sciences 22 , No. Proceedings of the British Academy , pp. The Idea of Negative Liberty.
Philosophical and Historical Perspectives, in: Essays on the Historiography of Philosophy, Cambridge , pp. Cambridge, Mass. Not dissimi- lar to Koselleck's understanding of concepts,35 Skinner conceived of ideas as polemical tools and rhetorical weapons purposefully employed in battles of legitimization.
He ar- gued that texts in political and social philosophy should primarily be read as "moves" and interventions through which authors supported or criticized, commended or con- demned the "actions" of other authors, particular institutions, or certain states of affairs. Potential entrapments in the hermeneutic circle aside, Skinner's intentionalism became the basso continuo running through his methodological articles in the decades to follow, when he had to make himself heard over a polyphonic choir performing variations on William Wimsatt's and Monroe Beardsley's famed theme of the "intentional fallacy" — whether the "composer's" name be Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, or Jacques Der- rida.
Intentionalism is, of course, only one aspect of Skinner's methodology. It is with good reason that his monograph series is called "ideas in context" more on this in the following section.
Skinner argued that historians needed to lay bare the relevant linguistic conventions, such as genres and rhetorical traditions, which a writer must follow to reach his target audience in the market of opinions. For instance, the more broadly a positively evaluative term was taken to be applicable, the wider the range of actions a writer could hope to legitimize. If historians succeeded in recreating the linguistic context, Skinner claimed, they could eventually "read off" what a writer was doing.
Whether he used the terms "paradigm", "dis- course" or "language" his analytical framework was never geared towards linguistic consistency , Pocock has placed more emphasis than Skinner on the constraining power of language.
Indeed, he has been more of a structuralist historian than his supposed al- ter ego in Cambridge. As he pointed out in a widely read article published in , he was mainly interested in studying "languages in which utterances were performed, rather than the utterances which were performed in them", which meant that the exam- ination of "idioms, rhetorics, specialized vocabularies and grammars" that transcended the writings of one particular author took priority over the production of intellectual biographies so fashionable these days.
Jahrhundert, pp. Some Considerations on Practice, in: Anthony Pagden ed. Pocock, Political Thought and History, pp. Pocock, Languages and their Implications. The Transformation of the Study of Political Thought, in: Mark Bevir and Dominick LaCapra. Informed by post-analytic philosophy — and hence no easy read for historians unfamiliar with the philosophical discipline — Bevir's Logic of the History of Ideas, published in , provides a normative second-order study of intellectual history and the human sciences in general, exploring key concepts of the field such as tradition, meaning and belief.
As Bevir explained in one of the numer- ous debates on his book, the Logic may also be read as an attempt to put the approach of the Cambridge School on a surer philosophical footing.
Therefore, ideas only exist as beliefs, which historians are to ascribe to people while being governed by logical presump- tions in favour of sincere, conscious and rational beliefs — "rational" being defined as "consistent". These beliefs are, moreover, part of wider "webs of belief" which arise against the background of intellectual and social traditions. While some historians may shrug their shoulders, wondering at the necessity to write a dense three-hundred-page account of this conception of intellectual history let alone hundreds of pages of comments and "replies to critics" , Bevir has doubtless resolved various philosophical problems that marked Skinner's and Pocock's contextualism.
It would go beyond the scope of this article to expound Bevir's analytical framework of "weak intentionalism" and "procedural individualism", which relates hermeneutic meanings to the expressed beliefs of individual agents whether authors or readers and escapes the typical pitfalls of historical reasoning that either emerge from assump- tions of a priori intentions un-mediated through language or that follow from notions of structuralism which imply mind-independent meanings.
Suffice it to say that the Logic not only offers crucial insights into the generation of meaning and the complex inner workings of "webs of belief", but also provides strategies to explain intellectual change through the exploration of "dilemmas" that are triggered by the mediated appropria- itics, Language and Time.
Essays on Political Thought and History, new ed. DeLuna ed. Essays Concerning J. Pocock, Baltimore , pp.
Pocock and the History of British Political Thought. Assessing the State of the Art, in: Eighteenth-Century Life 33 , No. History of European Ideas 28 , pp.
Ullian, The Web of Belief, 2nd ed. If Skinner and Pocock may be said to have offered new methodological avenues and a useful heuristic for intellectual historians, and if Bevir may be credited with provid- ing the field with a sound philosophical basis, then Dominick LaCapra stands out as the master of reflection.
He is the great "problematizer", fighting the evils of reductionism. Nothing is simple, everything is complex. LaCapra's goal is to complicate things.
One of the most distinguished exponents of the field, he has taught intellectual history at Cornell University for more than four decades. His work is greatly indebted to psycho- analysis, philosophy and literary theory, and is replete with appropriations of Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Mikhail Bakhtin and Jacques Derrida.
It is not always easy, therefore, to follow the circuitous meanderings of his reflections. One of LaCapra's anti-reductionist missions is to counter simplistic strategies of con- textualization.
Aimed at practices he detects in the work of social and cultural histo- rians, he cautions not to hypostatize the context and render it a "dominant structure saturating the text with a certain meaning". The context itself, he argues, is "a text of sorts". Instead, he points to the inter-textual quali- ties of contexts. Moreover, he finds fault with contextualist practices of intellectual historians who use "simple documentary texts" or "simplistic interpretations" thereof in order to constitute a context to which they subject, and make conform, "complex texts".
On the one hand there are texts "especially valuable to think with" — that is, complex "worklike" texts which "actively invite continual self-questioning" and are "particularly effective in en- gaging critical processes", potentially unleashing "transformative forces"; on the other hand, there are texts merely "worth thinking about" — that is, documentary texts which are symptomatic of and perpetuate existing structures of thought LaCapra speaks of "ideologies".
American Historical Review 97 , pp. Diacrit- ics 9 , also in: Dominick LaCapra, Introduction, in: Aschheim and Martin Jay; third, the deconstructive reading, which eschews synoptic, content-oriented reductionisms, decentres authorial agency, and un- covers "internal contestations" in texts; fourth, the redemptive reading, which tran- scends tensions in a harmonizing, neo-Hegelian fashion, and endows even traumatic experiences with meaning; and fifth, the dialogic reading, which combines the recon- struction of texts as "networks of resistances" and a self-critical "dialogic exchange" with them — the method LaCapra has developed, reworked, and tirelessly propagated over the last thirty years.
How do I — or we — respond to it? The Revival of Intellectual History In articles on intellectual history it has become something of a commonplace to either bemoan its marginal status or hail its surprising renaissance. In the United States the s are typically viewed as the golden age of this academic field, while the s are usually regarded as its nadir.
This text draws on an earlier publication: Waiting for Crillon, in: American Historical Review , pp. American Historical Review 56 , pp. Eric Foner ed.
Philadelphia , pp. Hollinger, American Intellectual History, , in: James M. Banner, Jr. Intellectual History Newsletter 8 April , pp. Toews, Intellectual History after the Linguistic Turn.
The Au- tonomy of Meaning and the Irreducibility of Experience, in: A glance at the relevant journals, academic networks and monograph series may be indicative of this revival.
To begin with, the annual publication of the Intellectual History Newsletter, launched in , at times resembled a collection of notes from the academic underground, and the advance of self-publishing technology did little to dispel the im- pression of a student newspaper. The Newsletter was the platform of the Intellectual History Group founded two years earlier at a conference dedicated to the "tasks and opportunities of American intellectual history".
As the editors of the conference vol- ume freely admitted, the gathering was a crisis meeting scheduled in the midst of a siege.
In their first editorial from , the editors praised the reemergence of intellectual history as an expanded interdisciplinary enter- prise. Published with Cambridge University Press, the trimester journal claims to be the first of its kind, implicitly denying the legacy of its samizdat-like predecessor. This research centre is not only en- gaged in organizing conferences on intellectual history and preparing an International Dictionary of Intellectual Historians that was initiated by the ISIH.
In its objective of transcending disciplinary boundaries, the Zeitschrift largely follows the example of its pp. American Historical Review 94 , pp. Conkin eds. Newsletter — Intellectual History Group 1 Spring , p. Modern Intellectual His- tory 1 , pp. Intellectual History Review 1 , p. The Inaugural Issue, in: Intellectual News. Journal of the History of Ideas 66 , No. Yet, as it runs a regular section called "think-image" Denkbild , it seems more committed than its older sibling to embracing visual history as an integral part of its profile.
Its profile is both thematically and method- ologically broader than the two journals that previously defined the field in terms of academic periodicals: Product Group: SlideShare Explore Search You. Submit Search. Successfully reported this slideshow.
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