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Time and interpretation: understanding concepts and conceptual change

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The issue of the nature of concepts and the problem of understanding conceptual change have become increasingly important in methodological discussions of the study of the history of political thought as well as in substantive research. The treatment of these matters, however, remains inadequate. This is in part a consequence of metatheoretical agendas that have diverted attention away from a theoretical analysis of concepts and apposite issues such as the relationship between mental predicates, words and concepts. But the failure to confront these matters has also been the result of the pervasive emphasis on contextual analysis in historical interpretation. One of the methodological implications of a more thorough theoretical account of concepts is a greater concern with internal history and conceptual genealogy.
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Keywords: Concepts; conceptual change; context; conventions; genealogy; history; interpretation; metatheoretical; theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, State University of New York at Albany, NY 12222, USA.

Publication date: 1998-04-01

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