October 03, 2009

Interviewing the Regius

An interview with Quentin Skinner, who though he never taught me, has taught me through his books and articles and who has been incredibly influential on my approach to history and to thought. I would urge watching it- some of it is personal to Skinner and his circle but much of it is about the world of learning he inhabits- Machiavelli, Hobbes, Wittgenstein and Collingwood- and furthermore the argument he has developed about liberty. Skinner, for those who haven't come across him, was Regius Professor at Cambridge until this year. He is incredibly important as a philosopher of the history of ideas, basing his arguments upon John Austin's theory of illocutory action. He is also an important scholar: for example he traced a concept of liberty back through time which he argued was different to our current one- liberty as a non-dependent state (rather than as an uncoerced action)- this concept Skinner argued was the principle legacy of ancient Rome through the digest of law to early modern philosophers like John Milton. He sees Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan as a sophisticated demolition of that argument. His work though includes much more- and in these interviews he surveys both it and his influences.