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How much did the racism of writers like Locke and Kant cohere with their other moral and political ideas? Answering such questions requires open-mindedness about the place of race in the thinkers we study. Yet many scholars underplay race’s relevance. This paper thus combines two key discussions of coherence, by Quentin Skinner and Robert Bernasconi. Both analyse mistakes in assessing coherence, and each offers insights that complement the other. But each arguably overstates the methodological reasons for errors in assessing coherence. Most importantly, Skinner’s mythology of coherence should be replaced with a hypothesis of coherence, while Bernasconi exaggerates the effect of analytic philosophy and rational reconstruction. In both cases, methodology interacts with attitudes.

Dr Adrian Blau is Reader in Politics, King’s College, London. He specialises in democratic theory and practice, including the history of political thought, the methodology of political theory and history of political thought, and philosophy of social science more generally.

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