Unit-ideas Unleashed: A Reinterpretation and Reassessment of Lovejovian Methodology in the History of Ideas

Abstract
This article argues for an unconventional interpretation of Arthur O. Lovejoy’s distinctive approach to method in the history of ideas. It is maintained that the value of the central concept of the ‘unit-idea’ has been misunderstood by friends and foes alike. The commonality of unit-ideas at different times and places is often defined in terms of familial resemblance. But such an approach must necessarily define unit-ideas as being something other than the smallest conceptual unit. It is therefore in tension with Lovejoy’s methodological prescription and, more importantly, disregards a potentially important aspect of intellectual history – the smaller conceptual units themselves. In response to this, an alternative interpretation of unit-ideas as ‘elemental’ – as the smallest identifiable conceptual components – is put forward. Unlike the familial resemblance approach, the elemental approach can provide a plausible explanation for changes in ideas. These are construed as being either the creation of new unit-ideas, the disappearance of existing ones, or alterations in the groups of unit-ideas that compose idea-complexes. The focus on the movement of unit-ideas and idea-complexes through history can also be sensitive to contextual issues, carefully distinguishing the different meanings that single words may have, in much the way that both Lovejoy and his influential critic Quentin Skinner suggest.
Keywords Quentin Skinner   causality   context   Arthur O. Lovejoy   change
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Carl Knight, Unit-ideas Unleashed: A Reinterpretation and Reassessment of Lovejovian Methodology in the History of Ideas
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Christopher Woodard (2011). Rationality and the Unit of Action. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (2):261-277.
Thomas F. Shipley (1998). Spatiotemporal Unit Formation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (6):772-772.
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2012-09-10

Total downloads

94 ( #14,090 of 1,101,810 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

26 ( #7,575 of 1,101,810 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.