History of Political Philosophy as a Discipline

John G. Gunnell

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

History of Political Philosophy as a Discipline

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  • Non-Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy



Whether one speaks of the study of the history of political philosophy, the history of political theory, or the history of political thought, the reference is typically to one basic scholarly genre. Although this body of scholarship is now the province of a distinctly interdisciplinary academic practice, bridging, and including, fields such as philosophy, history, and literary criticism, it is professionally largely the product of a subdiscipline located primarily in departments of political science, politics, or government. In the United States, the emerging social sciences, during the nineteenth century, were primarily the confluence of three closely related tributaries: elements of academic moral philosophy, often inspired by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers; individuals such as William Graham Sumner, who taught a scientific understanding of society and elicit the secret of social progress; and movements such as those represented in the American Social Science Association, which invoked the cognitive authority of science as they pursued a variety of causes from abolition to civil service reform.

Keywords: United States; history; political philosophy; political theory; political thought; political science; politics; moral philosophy; William Graham Sumner; American Social Science Association

Article.  6314 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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