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Philosophy and History in the Study of Political Thought

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This article analyzes how the relationship between philosophy and history has been conceived within the study of political thought, and how different ways of conceiving this relationship in turn have affected the definition of the subject matter as well as the choice of methods within this field. My main argument is that the ways in which we conceive this relationship is dependent on the assumptions we make about the ontological status of concepts and their meaning. I start by discussing the widespread view that philosophy and history ought to be viewed as distinct if not incompatible ways of studying political thought, and then go on to describe the view that philosophical and historical approaches should be conceived of as identical or inseparable. I end this article by suggesting that these approaches rather should be viewed as mutually constitutive for the benefit of a more coherent study of political thought.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


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