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Mind and Method in the History of Ideas

Abstract

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.

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