Oliver Bateman's Reviews > Politics, Language, and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History

Politics, Language, and Time by J.G.A. Pocock
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's review
Apr 27, 12

Read from April 21 to 28, 2012

I read only the first essay in this volume, in which Pocock lays out his approach toward developing a proper "historical" understanding of "political" language. Pocock also discusses Quentin Skinner's more technical take on the matter (as influenced by the philosophy of Austin, Wittgenstein, et al.), yet seems at a further remove from it. While Pocock is not necessarily uninterested in or ignorant of the "hard" questions posed by the philosophers of language, he emphasizes that such an understanding of texts in their proper contexts emerges primarily from one's own close readings thereof (which of course Skinner does as well, albeit in a far more rigorous manner, in his short article "Conventions and the Understanding of Speech Acts"). Part of the essay consists of a spirited defense of this "texts and context" method, which represented a major advance over the "Great Books" approach (of Leo Strauss et al.) to doing intellectual history.

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