Talk Adrian Blau "The Uncomfortable Interdisciplinarity of Intellectual History"
Tellus Horizon and Zoom (passcode: 664027)
Intellectual history and the history of political thought are inherently interdisciplinary: interpreting texts like Machiavelli’s Prince or Hobbes’s Leviathan involves a genuine integration of history and philosophy, creating something different to pure history or pure philosophy on their own. However, historians often resist this interdisciplinarity: they typically see themselves as doing history, not philosophy Indeed, leading intellectual historians in "Cambridge School" contextualism (including John Dunn, Peter Laslett, John Pocock and Quentin Skinner) sometimes display either hostility or incomprehension about philosophical approaches to intellectual history. They often caricature the philosophical perspectives used in departments of law, philosophy, politics, etc. My paper thus makes two main arguments. (1) I show that intellectual historians always conduct philosophical analysis, whether they recognise this or not, and even if philosophers usually take this further than historians. (2) I show that the arguments from philosophy of language used by Quentin Skinner to justify historical analysis can equally be used to justify philosophical analysis. It is completely understandable that so many historians resist interdisciplinarity, and that they challenge the unhistorical analysis of many philosophers. But recognising that intellectual history is a symbiosis between history and philosophy would open historians to new sources of evidence, new techniques, and (sometimes) better ways of arguing. It would also make universities a nicer place to work.
The event will be livestreamed via Zoom (see link above), and coffee and nibbles will be provided at the event.