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According to many books and articles, New England's leaders established the basic themes and preoccupations of an unfolding, dominant Puritan tradition in American intellectual life. To take this approach to the New Englanders normally means to start with the Puritans’ theological innovations and their distinctive ideas about the church—-important subjects that we may not neglect.

I know "approach" means "way/method" or "getting closer", but here I don't know what "take this approach to" means. "To 'way/method' the New Englanders"? "To get close to the New Englanders"? Someone told me it should be considered as "To 'study' the New Englanders". However, I don't know if this holds in English.

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    In your context, to take this approach means to approach / evaluate / interpret the subject matter in the same way as aforementioned "many books and articles". That's to say, to assume that the Puritan tradition in American intellectual life was in fact established by the leaders of New England (rather than by those not-so-Puritanical San Franciscans, for example! :) Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 11:07
  • @FumbleFingers Maybe I got your meaning. Do you mean "'get to know' the New Englanders in the aforementioned way"? Someone just told me like that before I asked this question but I couldn't completely understand. I know "this approach" refers to the aforementioned "books and articles", but what word refers to "get to know"?
    – jack S
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 17:59
  • No - your question is nothing to do with "getting to know" anything! Without context, I've no idea what you want "get to know" to mean, but possibly you might want to consider familiarize yourself [with some complex subject area]. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 18:04
  • @FumbleFingers Yeah I thought the same as yours in the beginning that there's nothing to do with "get to know". However, the answer of this reading also told me "get to know the New Englanders". If I translate the answer in English, the words should be "To study/get to know the New Englanders in this way normally means ...". To be honest, I doubt whether the original sentence (or the answer) is wrong.
    – jack S
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 14:50
  • @FumbleFingers Here are more scentences before the given two scentences above and I don't know if they can help: "The most thoroughly studied intellectuals in the history of the New World are the ministers and political leaders of seventeenth-century New England. According to the standard history of American philosophy, nowhere else in colonial America was “so much importance attached to intellectual pursuits.” According to many books and articles, New England's leaders established the basic themes and preoccupations of an unfolding, dominant Puritan tradition in American intellectual life..."
    – jack S
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 14:52

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Both literally and figuratively, the way you 'approach' something involves your starting point. For example, if you were trying to reach a literal destination you could approach from the east, or approach from the west, and your journey would be quite different but the end destination would be the same. Likewise, in a figurative sense, an approach is not necessarily a clearly mapped-out method with specific steps, but sometimes just a different way of beginning something. Sometimes we say that we are "approaching [something] from a different angle", which perhaps better conveys that it is about a starting point.

This is exactly how it is applied in your example. Note:

To take this approach to the New Englanders normally means to start with the Puritans’ theological innovations and their distinctive ideas about the church

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