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J.G.A. Pocock’s Barbarism and Religion

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image of Erudition and the Republic of Letters

There are no parallels to the career of J.G.A. Pocock in Anglophone scholarship; the singularity of his intellectual trajectory is traced here through constant appeal to his enquiry into the intellectual environments in which Gibbon conceived and wrote his Decline and Fall; the present essay is an attempt at applying much the same interpretative principles at work in the six volumes of Barbarism and Religion both to Pocock and to this culminating study, interpreted as a summa of his practice as an intellectual historian. Pocock is an historian, not a philosopher, and this affects his conception of Enlightenment, which he treats critically as an historian rather than reifying it in the manner of many philosophers. Pocock’s project is to undo the very idea of an ‘Enlightenment Project.’ Barbarism and Religion is not only a study of eighteenth-century conceptions of erudition and the Republic of Letters; it is a contemporary contribution to both.

Affiliations: 1: Christ Church, Oxford


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