Logic, language, and legitimation in the history of ideas: a brief view and survey of Bevir and Skinner

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Publication details

JournalIntellectual history review
DatePublished - Mar 2011
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)71-84
Original languageEnglish


Mark Bevir's doctrine of ‘weak intentionalism’, developed in the course of his criticism of the work of Quentin Skinner, at once modifies and qualifies Skinner's approach by specifying the beliefs of individuals rather than their utterances as the loci of their intentions and the things that fix the meaning of their utterances. This has the effect of broadening the scope of meaning, by disengaging the meaning of utterances from their status as speech acts, of narrowing the relevance of linguistic contexts, by denying that historians are required to study those contexts in order to understand the intended meaning of texts, and of blurring the historicity of texts, by suggesting that the utterances of which they are comprised may mean different things to author and audience. This essay draws attention to ambivalences in Skinner's position that Bevir does not take into account, and draws out continuities in Skinner's thought that Bevir's narrative does not register.

    Research areas

  • Methodology, history of ideas, Mark Bevir, Quentin Skinner, Robin George Collingwood


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