Emphasis on autonomy of texts presupposes that there are perennial concepts. But researchers' expectations may turn history into mythology of ideas; researchers forget that an agent cannot be described as doing something he could not understand as a description, and that thinking may be inconsistent. They will never uncover voluntary oblique strategies and by treating ideas as units will confuse sentences with statements. On the other hand, a contextual approach to the meaning of texts dismisses ideas as unimportant effects. Neither (...) method shows how what was said was meant is crucial for understanding. There are no perennial problems; philosophers of different times do not speak directly to us. But history of ideas helps us recognize the contingency of many of our beliefs. (shrink)
The first of three volumes of essays by Quentin Skinner, one of the world's leading intellectual historians. This collection includes some of his most important philosophical and methodological statements written over the past four decades, each carefully revised for publication in this form. In a series of seminal essays Professor Skinner sets forth the intellectual principles that inform his work. Writing as a practising historian, he considers the theoretical difficulties inherent in the pursuit of knowledge and interpretation, and elucidates the (...) methodology which finds its expression in his two successive volumes. All of Professor Skinner's work is characterised by philosophical power, limpid clarity, and elegance of exposition; these essays, many of which are now recognised classics, provide a fascinating and convenient digest of the development of his thought. (shrink)
Cogent, engaged, accessible, and indeed exhilarating, this new book will appeal to readers of history, politics, and philosophy at all levels from upper-undergraduate upwards, and provides an excellent introduction to the work of one of the ...
The sixteen essays in this volume confront the current debate about the relationship between philosophy and its history. On the one hand intellectual historians commonly accuse philosophers of writing bad - anachronistic - history of philosophy, and on the other, philosophers have accused intellectual historians of writing bad - antiquarian - history of philosophy. The essays here address this controversy and ask what purpose the history of philosophy should serve. Part I contains more purely theoretical and methodological discussion, of such (...) questions as whether there are 'timeless' philosophical problems, whether the issues of one epoch are commensurable with those of another, and what style is appropriate to the historiography of the subject. The essays in Part II consider a number of case-histories. They present important revisionist scholarship and original contributions on topics drawn from ancient, early modern and more recent philosophy. All the essays have been specially commissioned, and the contributors include many of the leading figures in the field. The volume as a whole will be of vital interest to everyone concerned with the study of philosophy and of its history. (shrink)
This lecture presents the text of the speech about the genealogy of the modern state delivered by the author at the 2008 British Academy Lecture. It explains that to investigate the genealogy of the state is to discover that there has never been any agreed concept to which the word state has answered. The lecture suggests that any moral or political term that has become so deeply enmeshed in so many ideological disputes over such a long period of time is (...) bound to resist any efforts at definition. (shrink)
This major new work from Quentin Skinner presents a fundamental reappraisal of the political theory of Hobbes. Using, for the first time, the full range of manuscript as well as printed sources, it documents an entirely new view of Hobbes 's intellectual development, and re-examines the shift from a humanist to a scientific culture in European moral and political thought. By examining Hobbes 's philosophy against the background of his humanist education, Professor Skinner rescues this most difficult and challenging of (...) political philosophers from the intellectual isolation in which he is so often discussed. This book presents a splendid exemplification of the 'Cambridge' contextual approach to the study of intellectual history with which Professor Skinner himself is especially associated. It will be of interest and importance to a wide range of scholars in history, philosophy, politics, and literary theory. (shrink)
The aim of this collection is to illustrate the pervasive influence of humanist rhetoric on early-modern literature and philosophy. The first half of the book focuses on the classical rules of judicial rhetoric. One chapter considers the place of these rules in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, while two others concentrate on the technique of rhetorical redescription, pointing to its use in Machiavelli's The Prince as well as in several of Shakespeare's plays, notably Coriolanus. The second half of the book (...) examines the humanist background to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. A major new essay discusses his typically humanist preoccupation with the visual presentation of his political ideas, while other chapters explore the rhetorical sources of his theory of persons and personation, thereby offering new insights into his views about citizenship, political representation, rights and obligations and the concept of the state. (shrink)
This is a volume of new essays introducing the most influential developments in social and political theory over the last thirty years. In that period empiricism and the positivist ideal of the unification of science have been undermined and transformed by the impact of different, frequently Continental, traditions of thought. The introduction charts these charges and each of the contributors provides a brief and lucid account of the thought of one major figure or school which have helped to bring about (...) these changes. Those discussed include Althusser, Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Habermas, Kuhn, Levi-Strauss, Rawls and the Annales historians. Each essay has suggestions for further reading and a useful general bibliography is provided at the end of the volume. (shrink)
This paper concentrates on three connected features of Taylor's argument. I begin by considering his historical sections on the formation of the modern identity, raising some doubts about the focus of his discussion and offering some specific criticisms in the case of Locke and Rousseau. Next I examine Taylor's list of the moral imperatives allegedly felt with particular force in the contemporary world. I question the extent to which the values listed by Taylor are genuinely shared, and point to a (...) range of criticisms put forward by conservatives, Marxists, feminists, and other opponents of liberalism, all of whose doubts Taylor appears to underestimate. Finally, I address Taylor's underlying claim that a religious dimension is indispensable if our highest human potentialities are to be realized, and conclude with a critique of his theistic arguments. (shrink)
This highly acclaimed volume brings together some of the world's foremost historians of ideas to consider Machiavelli's political thought in the larger context of the European republican tradition, and the image of Machiavelli held by other republicans. An international team of scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (notably law, philosophy, history and the history of political thought) explore both the immediate Florentine context in which Machiavelli wrote, and the republican legacy to which he contributed.
Although the literature on the logic of historical enquiry is already vast and still growing, it continues to polarise overwhelmingly around a single disputed point—whether historical explanations have their own logic, or whether every successful explanation must conform to the same deductive model. Recent discussion, moreover, has shown an increasing element of agreement—there has been a marked trend away from accepting any strictly positivist view of the matter. It will be argued here that both the traditional polarity and the recent (...) trend in this debate have tended to be misleading. The positiviste have been damagingly criticised. But their opponents have produced no satisfying alternative. They have tended instead to accept as proper historical explanations whatever has been offered by the historians themselves in the course of trying to explain the past. But a further type of analysis must be required if some account is to be given of the status, and not merely the function, of the language in which these explanations are offered. Such an analysis, moreover has implications of some importance in considering the appropriate strategy for historical enquiries. (shrink)
Niccolò Machiavelli taught that political leaders must be prepared to do evil deeds in order to ensure the general good of the state, and ever since his name has signified duplicity and immorality. But is his sinister reputation deserved? To answer this question, Quentin Skinner focuses on three of Machiavelli’s major works- The Prince , Discourses , and The History of Florence . His analyses and distillation of these texts provide an introduction of exemplary clarity to Machiavelli’s doctrines.
The political make-up of the contemporary world changes with such rapidity that few attempts have been made to consider with adequate care, the nature and value of the concept of sovereignty. What exactly is meant when one speaks about the acquisition, preservation, infringement or loss of sovereignty? This book revisits the assumptions underlying the applications of this fundamental category, as well as studying the political discourses in which it has been embedded. Bringing together historians, constitutional lawyers, political philosophers and experts (...) in international relations, Sovereignty in Fragments seeks to dispel the illusion that there is a unitary concept of sovereignty of which one could offer a clear definition. This book will appeal to scholars and advanced students of international relations, international law and the history of political thought. (shrink)
The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, published in 1988, offers a balanced and comprehensive account of philosophical thought from the middle of the fourteenth century to the emergence of modern philosophy. This was the first volume in English to synthesise for a wider audience the substantial and sophisticated research now available. The volume is organised by branch of philosophy rather than by individual philosopher or school, and the intention has been to present the internal development of different aspects of the (...) subject in their own historical context. The structure also naturally emphasises the international nature of philosophy in the Renaissance. (shrink)
In this important new book, Quentin Skinner shows us, with rare precision and eloquence, a world with which we are undoubtedly far less familiar than he, that of humanist rhetoric, and uses his deep knowledge of it to illuminate the recesses of a thinker with whom we feel we are all too familiar. In so doing he opens our eyes to different ways of thinking about early modern political philosophy and provides us with a Hobbes quite different from the one (...) we thought we knew, and the context in which to understand him. (shrink)
This collaborative volume offers the first historical reconstruction of the concept of popular sovereignty from antiquity to the twentieth century. First formulated between the late sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, the various early modern conceptions of the doctrine were heavily indebted to Roman reflection on forms of government and Athenian ideas of popular power. This study, edited by Richard Bourke and Quentin Skinner, traces successive transformations of the doctrine, rather than narrating a linear development. It examines critical moments in the career (...) of popular sovereignty, spanning antiquity, medieval Europe, the early modern wars of religion, the revolutions of the eighteenth century and their aftermath, decolonisation and mass democracy. Featuring original work by an international team of scholars, the book offers a reconsideration of one of the formative principles of contemporary politics by exploring its descent from classical city-states to the advent of the modern state. (shrink)
En este artículo se quiere mostrar que hay un tercer concepto de libertad aparte de los dos descritos por Isaiah Berlin. Para llevar a cabo su propósito el autor realiza una reconstrucción histórica del concepto hobbesiano de libertad y del concepto de libertad al que éste se opuso. Se concluye señalando que, aunque el concepto de libertad como no interferencia pudo se un ideal valioso en el mundo occidental de la posguerra, hay otros conceptos de libertad que son igualmente valiosos (...) en relación a la concepción que tengamos del carácter normativo de la naturaleza humana. (shrink)