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THE IMPLICATIONS OF ROBERT BRANDOM'S INFERENTIALISM FOR INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

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ABSTRACT

Quentin Skinner's appropriation of speech act theory for intellectual history has been extremely influential. Even as the model continues to be important for historians, however, philosophers now regard the original speech act theory paradigm as dated. Are there more recent initiatives that might reignite theoretical work in this area? This article argues that the inferentialism of Robert Brandom is one of the most interesting contemporary philosophical projects with historical implications. It shows how Brandom's work emerged out of the broad shift in the philosophy of language from semantics to pragmatics that also informed speech act theory. The article then goes on to unpack the rich implications of Brandom's inferentialism for the theory and practice of intellectual history. It contends that inferentialism clarifies, legitimizes, and informs intellectual historical practice, and it concludes with a consideration of the challenges faced by inferentialist intellectual history, together with an argument for the broader implications of Brandom's work.

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