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Post-Kantian European Philosophy Research Seminar Series
Speaker: Gordon Finlayson (Sussex)
Title: Understanding Meaning in the History of Philosophy
I advance a new and mainly internal criticism of Quentin Skinner’s claim, first made in his seminal “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” (1969), and subsequently never retracted or weakened, that ‘there are no perennial questions in philosophy’, and that Cambridge school style historical interpretation should have sole custody over the proper meaning of texts and theories in the history of philosophy. I lay out two premises to which Skinner is committed: an Austinian conception of linguistic practice, and an Anscombian conception of ‘intention-in-action’. From these I argue that there are, and will continue to be, ‘perennial questions’ in philosophy in the very sense that Skinner denies. My overall aim is to limit Skinner’s conception of historical interpretation, to make room for methodological pluralism in the history of philosophy.