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date: 20 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Our attitudes to understanding past texts fall into three conceptually distinct manners of enquiry. The Emblematic Past is resistant to correction, and impervious to criticism, and its characters and events are on permanent loan to the present as symbols indicative of all the vices and virtues of humanity. The Practical Past is the predominant mode of invoking a world of ideas to assist us in working through, or understanding, current problems. In contrast, those disposed to the Historical Past adopt a disinterestedness that sometimes verges on disdain towards those whose purpose is not interpretive authenticity. These attitudes are to be distinguished from the levels at which thought about International Relations occurs. We encounter types of thinking that relate to immediate circumstances; attempts to synthesize experience into principles and recommendations, or guides to action; and philosophical considerations of the place of International Relations in experience more generally.

Keywords: Hobbes, Machiavelli, sovereignty, methodological pluralism, emblematic, practical, historical

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