Agency and the objectivity of historical narratives
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Judging from the contemporary debate in the philosophy of history, philosophers seem to think of history as an important but also as a very peculiar discipline. They cannot make up their minds on how exactly to describe the epistemic status of historical knowledge or how exactly to situate history among human activities ranging from the arts to the natural sciences.1 The difficulty of philosophically accounting for the character of history goes back to the very beginning of history as a professional discipline within academia in the 19th century. In order to be given the title of a science history had to prove that its knowledge is as objective and rigorous as the knowledge gained by the natural sciences. Yet philosophers and historians recognized that its domain of human agency and human institutions was particularly ill suited to fit the model of methodological monism demanded by the ruling positivist conception of the natural sciences. They nevertheless suggested that history should still be regarded as a worthy member of the scientific community, because its own method of empathetic reenacting or "reliving" the experiences and thoughts of past agents allows it to acquire objective knowledge of the past.
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