Why history of ideas at all?

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This article suggests that the enterprise of Mark Bevir's book (The Logic of the History of Ideas, Cambridge, 1999), is the reverse of what his title implies. Bevir seeks not to delineate the peculiar logic of a specialised subfield of history called the 'history of ideas', but rather the logic which underlies historical pursuit considered in general as the 'explanation of belief'. If this is so, then the relationship between belief, meaning, and speech act in intellectual texts, and the task and method of the intellectual historian, must be reinterpreted along lines closer to those of Quentin Skinner than Bevir would allow. Indeed, Bevir's criticism of Skinner, which hinges on his own account of malapropism, is shown here to fail. The article concludes with brief reflections on the purpose and nature of studying the 'history of ideas'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


  • Belief
  • Bevir
  • Collingwood
  • Malapropism
  • Meaning
  • Skinner


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