History is Not Historicism

Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 21 (4):467-474 (2009)
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ABSTRACT Nassim Taleb’s dismissal of history as based on the “narrative fallacy”—which reads our present knowledge of past events into our reconstruction of the past—is based on a fundamental misconception of what historians actually do. Historians do not, as Taleb presumes, try to infer general, predictive laws from “hard” facts, as do natural scientists; instead their aim is to discover the causes of unique historical facts among antecedent facts. This is no different, in principle, from “narrating” the cause of a supernova by referring to physical causes. The construction of universal historical laws would admittedly be a fool’s errand, but that is not the task historians—as opposed to historicists—actually set for themselves.



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Gene Callahan
State University of New York (SUNY)

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How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
How the Laws of Physics Lie.Malcolm R. Forster - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (3):478-480.

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