(2011). MarkBevir on Skinner and the ‘Myth of Coherence’. Intellectual History Review: Vol. 21, Post-Analytic Hermeneutics: Themes from MarkBevir's Philosophy of History, pp. 15-26. doi: 10.1080/17496977.2011.546632.
Although he has written extensively on a broad array of topics, MarkBevir is most famous for his influential and controversial book The Logic of the History of Ideas (Cambridge University Press, 1999). In a wide-ranging interview, Bevir responds to a number of criticisms and mischaracterizations of the book, clarifies his aims in writing it, and identifies his relationship of his postfoundationalism to both analytical and continental philosophy. Additionally, Bevir articulates a hitherto unexpected ethical dimension to (...) the work, suggesting that it seeks to provide for a philosophy of the human sciences that incorporates those capacities for agency and reasoning that make us fully human and are thus deserving of respect. As such, he connects the book to the broader web of moral and political beliefs that underpin his work as a whole. (shrink)
In the twenty-four years since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, a body of high-quality scholarship on socialism has slowly accumulated. Here I discuss two superb additions to this incipient post–Cold War canon, MarkBevir’s The Making of British Socialism and Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life. Both authors take it as axiomatic that the socialist utopia, with its quasi-eschatological promise of complete human emancipation, is an idea whose time has passed. But Bevir and, to (...) a lesser degree, Sperber discern a utopian afterglow that warrants our interest—and is still quite capable of providing inspiration. “This book has been a long time in the making,” MarkBevir admits in the .. (shrink)
This paper provides a short summary of MarkBevir, The Logic of the History of Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Logic stands here as a subset of Wittgenstein’s notion of philosophy as a matter of the grammar of our concepts. It studies the forms of reasoning appropriate to a discipline, rather than the material of that discipline. Hence, the logic of the history of ideas considers the nature of meaning, the way we should justify our knowledge of (...) past meanings, and how we should explain things such as the existence of meanings, the beliefs people held, and conceptual change. (shrink)
This paper offers a theory of genealogy, explaining its rise in the nineteenth century, its epistemic commitments, its nature as critique, and its place in the work of Nietzsche and Foucault. The crux of the theory is recognition of genealogy as an expression of a radical historicism, rejecting both appeals to transcendental truths and principles of unity or progress in history, and embracing nominalism, contingency, and contestability. In this view, genealogies are committed to the truth of radical historicism and, perhaps (...) more provisionally, the truth of their own empirical content. Similarly, genealogies operate as denaturalizing critiques of ideas and practices that hide the contingency of human life behind formal ahistorical or developmental perspectives. (shrink)
The secondary literature on Rawls is vast, but little of it is historical. Relying on the archival materials he left to Harvard after his death, we look at the historical contexts that informed Rawls's understanding of political philosophy and the changes in his thinking up to A Theory of Justice. We argue that Rawls's classic work reveals positivist aspirations that were altered and frayed by various encounters with postanalytic naturalism. So, we begin in the 1940s, showing the influence of other (...) positivist projects, such as those of Popper and Ducasse. Thereafter, we explore how Rawls's encounter with Wittgenstein and Quine in the 1950s and 1960s led him to introduce the post-analytic features evident in A Theory of Justice. Our historical narrative challenges commonplace folk-understandings that portray Rawls as either wholly committed to positivism or as its principal slayer. (shrink)
Many philosophers have rejected the possibility of objective historical knowledge on the grounds that there is no given past against which to judge rival interpretations. Their reasons for doing so are valid. But this does not demonstrate that we must give up the concept of historical objectivity as such. The purpose of this paper is to define a concept of objectivity based on criteria of comparison, not on a given past. Objective interpretations are those which best meet rational criteria of (...) accuracy, comprehensiveness, consistency, progressiveness, fruitfulness, and openness. Finally, the nature of our being in the world is shown to give us a good reason to regard such objective interpretations as moving towards truth understood as a regulative ideal. (shrink)
This article argues against both hard linguistic-contextualists who believe that paradigms give meaning to a text and soft linguistic-contextualists who believe that we can grasp authorial intentions only by locating them in a contemporaneous conventional context. Instead it is proposed that meanings come from intentions and that there can be no fixed way of recovering intentions. On these grounds the article concludes first that we can declare some understandings of texts to be unhistorical though not illegitimate, and second that good (...) history depends solely on accurate and reasonable evidence, not on adopting a particular method. (shrink)
The general aim of this paper is to establish the plausibility of a postfoundational intentionalism. Its specific aim is to respond to criticisms of my work made by Vivienne Brown in a paper "On Some Problems with Weak Intentionalism for Intellectual History." Postfoundationalism is often associated with a new textualism according to which there is no outside to the text. In contrast, I suggest that postfoundationalists can legitimate our postulating intentions, actions, and other historical objects outside of the text. They (...) can do so by reference to, first, philosophical commitments to general classes of objects, and, second, inference to the best explanation with respect to particular objects belonging to such classes. This postfoundational intentionalism sets up a suitable context within which to address Brown's more specific questions. (shrink)
This paper argues that history differs from natural science in relying on folk psychology and so narrative explanations. In narratives, actions, beliefs, and pro-attitudes are joined by conditional and volitional connections. Conditional connections exist when beliefs and pro-attitudes pick up themes from one another Volitional connections exist when agents command themselves to do something having decided to do it because of a pro-attitude they hold. The paper defends the epistemic legitimacy of narratives by arguing we have legitimate grounds for postulating (...) conditional and volitional connections since they are given to us by a folk psychology we accept as true. (shrink)
This paper sets out an agenda for the study of the history of analytic and post-analytic political philosophy. It builds on a growing literature on the history of analytic philosophy to make three main suggestions. First, analytic philosophy arose as part of a wider shift from the developmental historicism of the nineteenth century to more modernist modes of knowledge. Second, analytic philosophy included a wide range of approaches to moral and political issues, many of which reflected distinctive concepts of analysis, (...) logic, and science. Third, analytic philosophy only became widespread when the work of Quine and Wittgenstein moved it in a more post-analytic direction. Crucially, the move toward post-analytic philosophy inspired people to rediscover and reinvent other traditions, including liberal humanism, democratic republicanism, virtue ethics, and historicism. The resulting history provides a fluid and diverse understanding of arguably the most powerful philosophical movement of the twentieth century. (shrink)
The History of Political and Social Concepts: A Critical Introduction by Melvin Richter History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives by Iain Hampsher-Monk; Karin Tilmans; Frank van Vree History and Theory.
This paper argues that historicism can provide substantive philosophical grounds for critical theory and various modes of critique. Unlike the developmental historicism that dominated the nineteenth century, we start from a radical historicism tied to nominalism, contingency, and contestability. This radical historicism is compatible with a commitment to truth claims, including the truth of historicism and the truth of particular genealogies and other accounts of the world. Genealogy can be viewed as radical historicism in its critical guise, denaturalizing the ideas (...) it targets. In addition, however, radical historicism provides possible grounds for both historical ontology and a revised version of ideology critique. Ideology is conceived here in relation to failures in consciousness itself rather than the alleged conflicts of a material base. (shrink)
J. G. A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner have led a recent onslaught on the alleged "myth of coherence" in the history of ideas. But their criticisms depend on mistaken views of the nature of mind: respectively, a form of social constructionism, and a focus on illocutionary intentions at the expense of beliefs. An investigation of the coherence constraints that do operate on our ascriptions of belief shows historians should adopt a presumption of coherence, concern themselves with coherence, and proceed to (...) reconstruct sets of beliefs as coherent wholes. The history of ideas merges history with aspects of philosophy, where philosophy is understood as the study of the grammar of our concepts. (shrink)
Abstract This paper defends a historicist approach to the history of ideas. A historicist ontology implies that texts have meaning only for specific people, whether these be individual authors, particular readers, or the intersubjective beliefs of social groups. Texts do not have intrinsic meanings in themselves.
On August 30, 2013, the American Political Science Association sponsored a roundtable on political epistemology as part of its annual meetings. Co-chairing the roundtable were Jeffrey Friedman, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin; and Hélène Landemore, Department of Political Science, Yale University. The other participants were Scott Althaus, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; MarkBevir, Department of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley; Rogers Smith, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania; (...) and Susan Stokes, Department of Political Science, Yale University. We thank the participants for permission to republish their remarks, which they subsequently edited for clarity. (shrink)
According to models of objectification, viewing someone as a body induces de-mentalization, stripping away their psychological traits. Here evidence is presented for an alternative account, where a body focus does not diminish the attribution of all mental capacities but, instead, leads perceivers to infer a different kind of mind. Drawing on the distinction in mind perception between agency and experience, it is found that focusing on someone's body reduces perceptions of agency but increases perceptions of experience. These effects were found (...) when comparing targets represented by both revealing versus nonrevealing pictures or by simply directing attention toward physical characteristics. The effect of a body focus on mind perception also influenced moral intuitions, with those represented as a body seen to be less morally responsible but more sensitive to harm. These effects suggest that a body focus does not cause objectification per se but, instead, leads to a redistribution of perceived mind. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThis essay argues that concerns about historical distance arose along with modernist historicism, and they disappear with postfoundationalism. The developmental historicism of the nineteenth century appealed to narrative principles to establish continuity between past and present and to guide selections among facts. In the twentieth century, modernist historicists rejected such principles, thereby raising the specter of historical distance: that is, the distorting effects of the present on accounts of the past, the chasm between facts and narrative. The modernist problem became: (...) how can historians avoid anachronism and develop accurate representations of the past? Instead of using narrative principles to select facts, modernist historicists appealed to atomized facts to validate narratives. However, in the late twentieth century, postmodernists argued that there was no way to close the distance between facts and narratives. The postmodern problem became: how should historians conceive of their writing given the ineluctable distance between facts and narratives? Today, postfoundationalism dispels both modernist and postmodernist concerns with historical distance; it implies that all concepts fuse fact and theory, and it dissolves issues of conceptual relativism, textual meaning, and re‐enactment. (shrink)
This article concerns the relevance of postfoundationalism, including the ideas of Michel Foucault, for political science. The first half of the article distinguishes three forms of postfoundationalism, all of which draw some of their inspiration from Foucault. First, the governmentality literature draws on Marxist theories of social control, and then absorbs Foucault’s focus on power/knowledge. Second, the post-Marxists combine the formal linguistics of Saussure with a focus on hegemonic discourses. Third, some social humanists infuse Foucauldian themes into the New Left’s (...) focus on culture, agency and resistance. The second half of the article then describes a research program that may bring together these varieties of postfoundationalism. This research program includes aggregate concepts that overtly allow for the constitutive role of meanings in social life and the contingent nature of these meanings. The concepts are: situated agency, practice and power. A postfoundational research program also needs concepts that demarcate a historicist form of explanation, that is, concepts such as narrative, tradition and dilemma. Finally, this research program contains specific empirical focuses to link these aggregate and explanatory concepts back to governmentality, post-Marxism and social humanism. (shrink)
J. G. A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner have led a recent onslaught on the alleged ”myth of coherence“ in the history of ideas. But their criticisms depend on mistaken views of the nature of mind: respectively, a form of social constructionism, and a focus on illocutionary intentions at the expense of beliefs. An investigation of the coherence constraints that do operate on our ascriptions of belief shows historians should adopt a presumption of coherence, concern themselves with coherence, and proceed to (...) reconstruct sets of beliefs as coherent wholes. The history of ideas merges history with aspects of philosophy, where philosophy is understood as the study of the grammar of our concepts. (shrink)
In considering the Cambridge School of intellectual history, we should distinguish Skinner's conventionalism from Pocock's contextualism whilst recognising that both of them argue that the study of a text's linguistic context is at least necessary and perhaps sufficient to ensure understanding. This paper suggests that although "study the linguistic context of an utterance" is a valuable heuristic maxim, it is not a prerequisite of understanding that one does so. Hence, we might shift our attention from the role of linguistic contexts (...) in understanding a text, to the role of ideational contexts in our explanations of meanings or beliefs. The explanatory role of contexts can be unpacked in terms of traditions and dilemmas. Here the paper also considers how this approach differs from that of the Cambridge School. (shrink)
There are two leading narratives of governance. One is a neoliberal one about markets that is inspired by rational choice. The other is a story about networks associated with institutionalism in political science. This paper argues that both rational choice and institutionalism rely on assumptions about our ability to readoff peoples beliefs from objective social facts about them, and yet that these assumptions are untenable given the philosophical critique of positivism. Hence, we need to modify our leading theories and narratives (...) of governance. We need to decenter them. The paper then explores the distinctive answers a decentered theory of governance would give to questions such as: Is governance new? Is governance a vague metaphor? Is governance uniform? How does governance change? And is governance failure inevitable? Finally, the paper explores some of the consequences of decentered theory has for how we might think about policy formation and democracy.Il existe deux histoires majeures de la gouvernance. La première, dinspiration néolibérale, s intéresse aux marchés et se fonde sur les choix rationnels. La seconde sintéresse aux réseaux relevant de linstitutionnalisme en science politique. Cet article soutient quaussi bien les choix rationnels que linstitutionnalisme se fondent sur des hypothèses concernant notre possibilité de déterminer les croyances des individus à partir de faits sociaux objectifs, et que néanmoins ces hypothèses sont insoutenables face à la critique philosophique du positivisme. A partir de là, nous devons modifier nos théories majeures ainsi que notre compréhension de la gouvernance. Nous devons les décentrer. Ainsi, larticle explore les différentes réponses quune théorie décentrée de la gouvernance peut apporter à des questions telles que : la gouvernance est-elle nouvelle? La gouvernance est-elle une vague métaphore? La gouvernance est-elle uniforme? Comment la gouvernance évolue-t-elle? Ou encore, léchec de la gouvernance est-il inévitable? Finalement, larticle explore quelquesunes des conséquences de la théorie décentrée quant à lélaboration des politiques et la démocratie. (shrink)