Journal of the Philosophy of History 13 (1):107-128 (2019)

Arthur Alfaix Assis
Universidade de Brasília
Cicero once stressed as the first law of history that “the historian must not dare to tell any falsehood.” This precept entails a minimal ethical requirement that remains unscathed by the whirlpools of epistemic relativism that have called many other aspects of professional historians’ practice into question in the last century or so. No commendable scholar seems willing to invalidate Cicero’s first law, and dependable scholarship—whether relying on objectivity-friendly or objectivity-hostile theoretical assumptions—follows shared standards of integrity and accuracy with which someone from Cicero’s time, for instance, would never be able to comply. In this essay, I suggest that those two circumstances should dispose us more favorably toward a refreshed notion of historical objectivity pointing not only to epistemology but also to professional ethics. I address the condemnation of lying and, more generally, historians’ commitment to sincerity as a way to highlight the ethical dimension of history writing. By focusing on the deep but underexplored moral roots of objectivity, I argue that this concept is still very useful as both an analytical tool and a normative ideal. Objectivity, in the sense I underline here, does not stand in opposition to subjectivity—on the contrary, it is actually tied up with subjective dispositions, virtues, and skills that help shape responsible historiography.
Keywords ethics   historical method   lies   truth  historiography
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DOI 10.1163/18722636-12341350
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References found in this work BETA

The Role of Trust in Knowledge.John Hardwig - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (12):693-708.
Truth, Objectivity and Evidence in History Writing.Marek Tamm - 2014 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 8 (2):265-290.
Objectivity in History.Mark Bevir - 1994 - History and Theory 33 (3):328-344.
Weak Historicism: On Hierarchies of Intellectual Virtues and Goods.Herman Paul - 2012 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 6 (3):369-388.
From Objectivity to Objectification: Feminist Objections.Mary E. Hawkesworth - 1994 - In Allan Megill (ed.), Rethinking Objectivity. Duke University Press. pp. 151--178.

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Citations of this work BETA

A Dialogue with Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen.Frank Ankersmit - 2017 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 11 (1):38-58.

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