Postnarrativism, Historiographical Evaluation, and Truth

Journal of the Philosophy of History 15 (1):106-124 (2019)
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Abstract

The problem of historiographical evaluation is simply this: By what evaluative criteria might we say that certain works of historiography are better than others? One recently proposed solution to this problem comes by way of Kuukkanen’s postnarrativist philosophy of historiography.1 Kuukkanen argues that because many historiographically interesting statements lack truth-values, we cannot evaluate historiographical claims on a truth-functional basis. In the place of truth, Kuukkanen suggests that we evaluate historiographical claims in terms of justification. The problem with this proposal, as I will argue here, is that it isn’t at all clear what it means for a neither-true-nor-false claim to be justified. Moreover, this proposal also runs into trouble with the factivity of knowledge. The solution I propose here might be called “two-valued” postnarrativism, which retains Kuukkanen’s framework, except with a stricter ontology devoid of neither-true-nor-false historiographical statements. In arguing for this approach to historiographical evaluation, this paper will be structured in the following way: First, I’ll describe Kuukkanen’s postnarrativism in more detail, focusing especially on his account of historiographical evaluation. Next, I’ll introduce two problems that accompany this account, one originating from the factivity of knowledge and the other from trying to divorce justification from the concept of truth. Finally, I argue that not only might these problems be solved by simply committing to all historiographical claims being either true or false, but that Kuukkanen’s account is especially amenable to this.

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Adam Michael Bricker
University of Turku

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