Intellectual History, Inferentialism, and the Weimar Origins of Political Theory

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
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  • 1 University of Pittsburgh

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The dilemma of presentism is sometimes represented as a choice between the increased relevance and utility of a historiographic practice that can articulate its relation to the present and the increased objectivity or openness to the otherness of the past of a historiographic practice that articulates the past “on its own terms.” The present article argues that, at least with reference to intellectual history, we should understand that ideas appear most fully when they are run through a multitude of contexts and not rooted exclusively in circumstances contemporaneous to either the original emergence of an idea or the writer and first reader of the historical account. The following thesis is advanced: ideas appear only over time, and the contextualization, decontextualization, and recontextualization of ideas in different places and times are all essential to such intellectual historical “appearance.” The article then articulates its position more precisely by means of Robert Brandom’s inferentialism. And, finally, this line of inquiry is exemplified and interrogated by means of a concrete historiographic case—namely, a political theoretical investigation of the intellectual legacy of the Weimar Republic.

  • 5

    John Manning, The Emblem (London: Reaktion, 2002), especially Chapter 2.

  • 6

    Chauncey Mayer, The Pittsburgh School of Philosophy: Sellars, McDowell, Brandom (New York: Routledge, 2012).

  • 7

    Robert Brandom, From Empiricism to Expressivism: Brandom Reads Sellars (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), 1.

  • 9

    Robert Brandom, Tales of the Mighty Dead (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 94.

  • 11

    Brandom, Tales, 1–118.

  • 13

    Brandom, Tales, 97.

  • 17

    Jonathan Gienapp, “Historicism and Holism: Failures of Originalist Translation,” Fordham Law Review 84.3 (2015): 956.

  • 18

    Kevin J. Harrelson, “Inferentialist Philosophy of Language and the Historiography of Philosophy,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22.3 (2014): 3.

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  • 19

    David L. Marshall, “The Implications of Robert Brandom’s Inferentialism for Intellectual History,” History and Theory 52.1 (2013): 31.

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  • 26

    Robert Brandom, “A Hegelian Model of Legal Concept Determination: The Normative Fine Structure of the Judges’ Chain Novel,” in Pragmatism, Law, and Language, edited by Graham Hubbs and Douglas Lind (New York: Routledge, 2013), 21.

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  • 27

    Brandom, Tales, 95.

  • 30

    See Karl Bühler, Sprachtheorie (Frankfurt a. M.: Ullstein, 1978), 367–85.

  • 34

    Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Frankfurt a. M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1977), 184.

  • 37

    Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 2.15.13: “rhetorice est vis inveniendi omnia in oratione persuasibilia”; Anon. (trans.), Rethorice Aristotelis Peripathetici, in Bernhard Schneider (ed.), Rhetorica (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 9: “est autem rethorica potentia circa unumquodque ad sciendum conveniens probabile”; William of Moerbeke (trans.), Rethoricorum Aristotelis, in Schneider (ed.), Rhetorica, 163: “est itaque rethorica potentia circa unumquodque considerandi contingens persuasibile”; Alessandro Piccolomini, Copiosissima Parafrase, di M. Alessandro Piccolomini: Nel Primo Libro della Retorica d’Aristotele (Venice: per Giovanni Varisco, 1565): rhetoric is “un’arte ò vero una facoltà, per la quale diveniamo habituati, & potenti a saper vedere, & trovare intorno à qual si voglia materia persuasibile, tutto quello che esser possa accommodato à persuaderla, & a farne fede”; A Brief of the Art of Rhetorick, in: A Compendium of the Art of Logick and Rhetorick in the English Tongue (London: Thomas Maxey, 1651), 139, formerly attributed to Thomas Hobbes, now regarded as a text emerging from a Hobbesian context: “Rhetorick, is that Faculty, by which wee underftand what wil ferve our turne, concerning any fubject to win beliefe in the hearer”; François Cassandre (trans.), La Rhétorique d’Aristote en François (Lyon: Antoine & Horace Molin, 1691), 11: rhetoric is “un Art, ou une Faculté qui considere en chaque sujet ce qui est capable de persuader”; Michael Wenzel Voigt (trans.), Die Rhetorik des Aristoteles (Prague: Karl Barth, 1803), 16: “Lafst uns also annehmen, dafs die Rhetorik eine Kunst fey, über jeden Gegenftand das jedesmalige Ueberredungsfähige zu betrachten”; Karl Ludwig Roth (trans.), Rhetorik (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1833), 20: “So sey nun die Redekunst ein Vermögen, an jedem Dinge Das, was Glauben erwecken kann, wahrzunehmen”; Heinrich Knebel (trans.), Aristoteles Rhetorik (Stuttgart: Balz’sche Buchhandlung, 1838), 13: “Es sei also Rhetorik eine Befähigung in Bezug auf einen jeden Gegenstand das Glauben Erweckende zu erkennen”; Adolf Stahr (trans.), Drei Bücher der Redekunst (Stuttgart: Krais & Hoffmann, 1862), 23: “Redekunst ist das Vermögen, für jedem einzelnen Gegenstand und Fall das in ihm liegende Glaubenerweckende zu erkennen”; Friedrich Nietzsche (trans.), Aristoteles Rhetorik, in Fritz Bornmann and Mario Carpitella (eds.), Vorlesungsaufzeichnungen (WS 1871/2–WS 1874/5) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), 540 “So sei denn Rhetorik das Vermögen, an je dem Ding alles das zu sehen, wodurch es glaublich wird, so weit dies überhaupt möglich ist.”

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