Sunday, August 10, 2008

Whigs and teleology

In his essay "The Writing of Early Modern European Intellectual History, 1945-1995," (in Routledge's wonderful 1997 Companion to Historiography, edited by Michael Bentley), Daniel Woolf notes that much 20th-century intellectual history exhibits a certain teleology, or a temptation to interpret the history of scholarship as "inherently progressive, marching towards the modern system of critical research and evaluation of evidence." It seems that he refers to the same fallacy as Butterfield's Whig interpretation of history. If so, teleology seems a much more fitting term, or at least more universal. Is "teleology" now the common parlance, and at what point did it supersede "Whig interpretation?"

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