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Linguistic contextualism in the history of politic thought: Quentin Skinner and the contemporary methodological debate

This article aims to map and investigate the methodological debate spearheaded by the Cambridge School of history of political thought in the last four decades, focusing on the formulations of Quentin Skinner and the main objections raised by his critics. After a brief presentation of the prescriptions in Skinner's methods, the article discusses how his linguistic contextualism has been criticized for: a) his epistemological commitments (denounced alternately as relativist and positivist); b) his adherence to intentionalism; and c) his tendency towards "antiquarianism". The article concludes that of these three modalities of objections, the attribution of "antiquarianism" was the one that most compromised Skinner's original methodological formulations, recently leading him to virtually abandon his original antipresentist thrust.

Cambridge School; linguistic contextualism; Quentin Skinner; presentism; historicism

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