INTENTIONS AND CONVENTIONS: A CRITIQUE OF QUENTIN SKINNER'S METHOD FOR THE STUDY OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS

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Abstract

This paper plays critic to Quentin Skinner's much tougher role as methodological innovator in the practice of the history of ideas. It argues that the continuing centrality of intentions in Skinner's proposals as illustrated in his historical examples results in descriptions which are too often unproven or unproveable or unenlightening or wrong. Serious doubts are raised about the theoretical propriety of Skinner's doctrine of intentions as a key to the proper understanding of historical texts, and the legitimacy of the explanatory power Skinner attributes to his imputed intentions is disputed.

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