The Concept of Man as Presupposed by the Historical Studies: P. L. Gardiner

I should like to begin by removing a misconception to which the title of this lecture may possibly give rise. My concern is not with general propositions regarding certain fairly well-attested human characteristics of the kind to which historians may, from time to time, advert in the course of their work or to which they may appeal in support of the account provided of some particular event or occurrence. I am not myself an historian, and for me to make ex cathedra pronouncements on such topics as these might well seem to constitute an unjustifiable intrusion upon a field about which I am not qualified professionally to speak. My subject lies within the sphere of philosophy of history rather than of history proper; it belongs, in other words, to a branch of philosophical inquiry, and as such relates, not to empirical facts and events of the sort to which the practising historian addresses himself, but to those assumptions, categories and modes of procedure that are, or are believed to be, intrinsic to historical thought and discourse. In this general context I wish to discuss two approaches to the problem of elucidating the character of historical knowledge and explanation. Both of the approaches I have in mind have achieved a considerable measure of support at the present time; they have also been widely understood as offering profoundly divergent — indeed, diametrically opposed — views of what is central to the structure of historical thinking and to the type of activity upon which the historian is essentially engaged. It has on occasions been suggested that what — amongst other things — divides adherents to the views in question is the fact that they are committed to radically different conceptions of the subject-matter of the historical studies; that is to say, of human beings and their activities. In the light of this fundamental disagreement, it is argued, many of the more intractable controversies that have arisen concerning the concepts and interpretative schemes in terms of which it is possible or legitimate to treat the human past become readily intelligible. In what follows I want to examine this claim. First, however, let me give a brief, and necessarily somewhat crude, outline of the two positions I have referred to, starting with one that is often described as ‘positivist’.
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DOI 10.1017/S1358246100000059
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Foundations of Historical Knowledge.Morton White - 1968 - Philosophy of Science 35 (1):76-78.
Foundations of Historical Knowledge.Morton White - 1967 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):72-74.

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