Conceptual History as a Philosophical Methodology: The Case of Hans Blumenberg’s Metaphorology

In a first blog post, I suggested that the figure of Hans Blumenberg can help us to understand one of the major differences between the ‘Cambridge School’ of intellectual history and Begriffsgeschichte, or conceptual history. This difference, I argued, is a disciplinary one: whereas Cambridge School intellectual history operates mainly in the fields of the historiography of political thought and contemporary political theory, conceptual historians intervene in a wider array of discourses and make more diverse use of historical insights. Hans Blumenberg, who is known as a philosopher, and not mainly as a political theorist, exemplifies this polydisciplinary outlook. At the same time, we can learn a lot about Blumenberg’s work if we interpret his early methodological writings in the context of conceptual history debates.

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What Is, and To What End Do We Study, Intellectual History?: A Comparison of Two Approaches: The ‘Cambridge School’ and ‘Conceptual History’

From 2–4 June 2022, the German Association for British Studies will host its annual conference under the title of ‘From Cambridge to Bielefeld—and Back? British and Continental Approaches to Intellectual History’. Two specific—and local—schools of thought and their respective groups of thinkers are thus at the heart of the conference: Cambridge, where intellectual historians in the tradition of J. G. A. Pocock, Quentin Skinner, and John Dunn’s more or less shared outlook still apply linguistic and historical methods to modern political thought; and Bielefeld, where Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck edited the monumental lexicon on key historical terminology entitled Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe1  (GG), and where Koselleck was involved in shaping the institutional and methodological outlook of the now well-known Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF).2

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  1. Otto Brunner, Reinhart Koselleck, and Werner Conze (eds.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, 8 vols. (Stuttgart, 1972–97). []
  2. E.g. Koselleck was executive director of the centre in the years 1974–5 and played a leading role in the management of its research from 1968 until 1979. See Ipke Wachsmuth, ‘Gedenkrede des Geschäftsführenden Direktors des Zentrums für Interdisziplinäre Forschung der Universität Bielefeld’, in Neithard Bulst and Willibald Steinmetz (eds.), Reinhart Koselleck 1923–2006: Reden zur Gedenkfeier am 24. Mai 2006 (Bielefeld, 2007), 41–3, at 41–2. In various functions, Koselleck was responsible for attracting Norbert Elias to the centre and for institutionalizing the format of the so-called ‘working groups’, among other things. The centre’s research agenda often reflected the methodological impulse of the conceptual history approach, and this can also be seen in Koselleck’s own work; consider e.g. the ZiF’s role as an institutional enabler for his work on the French Revolution: Reinhart Koselleck and Rolf Reichardt, Die Französische Revolution als Bruch des gesellschaftlichen Bewusstseins: Vorlagen und Diskussionen der internationalen Arbeitstagung am Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung der Universität Bielefeld, 28. Mai–1. Juni 1985 (Munich, 1988). []

Women’s Centres and their Newsletters: Feminist Spaces and Print Cultures in Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom

In April confusion reigned due to the last issue of Sisterhood thinking that the first Wednesday in April fell on the 8th rather than the 1st (Tut tut sack the proof readers I say). In the end we had two meetings but the discussion on Sexism and Education remained on the 8th. As a result of the confusion only 7 women attended.1

Taking place at the Cleveland women’s centre in Yorkshire, this seemingly benign communication mishap among the group producing the centre’s newsletter, Sisterhood, managed to leave the centre in disarray. In the end, the programme announced in the newsletter prevailed despite the organizers’ initial plans, illustrating just how central a role local newsletters could play in the basic functioning of key structures of local feminist scenes.

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  1. Sisterhood: Cleveland Womens Centre Newsletter, 3 (May 1981). []