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Pick, D. Rustin, M. (2008). Part One: Introduction to Quentin Skinner: Interpretation in Psychoanalysis and History. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(3):637-645.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(3):637-645


Part One: Introduction to Quentin Skinner: Interpretation in Psychoanalysis and History Related Papers

Daniel Pick and Michael Rustin

The article on interpretation by the historian, Quentin Skinner, published in the present issue of the IJP, is concerned with textual analysis rather than psychoanalysis, yet the debate in which it engages has considerable relevance to the work that analysts do. In this brief introduction to his paper, we will indicate the significance of Skinner's contribution to historiography in the context of some recent developments in the human sciences and suggest various implications of his argument for psychoanalytic thought.

Quentin Skinner's work since the 1960s has brought together historical and philosophical thinking in important new ways. His primary field of research has been in Renaissance and early modern political thought, but his writing and teaching have also made a considerable impact on the way intellectual and cultural historians at large approach ideas and systems of belief.

Skinner has sought systematically to address the historicity of thought, unlike, say, traditional political and moral philosophers who have tended to approach ideas in terms of their enduring value, as understood from their own point of view. Such philosophers typically construct canons of exemplary philosophical texts, about which they ask analytic and evaluative rather than historical and descriptive questions. It is the logical structure and enduring moral implications of the views of, for example, Machiavelli or Hobbes that have occupied them. The historical situation of and specific discursive purposes behind texts such as The Prince or Leviathan were less likely to be examined.

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