History and Theory 58 (1):89-111 (2019)

Serge Grigoriev
Ithaca College
The purpose of this paper is to explore the conditions under which the post-positivist interest in rewriting or reinterpreting history could operate legitimately from an historical point of view. The first part of the paper outlines and explains some of the key thematic elements of historical post-positivism. The second, proceeds to investigate how these elements can be configured and related to each other within Arthur Danto’s influential account of the development of contemporary art, and especially the avant-garde. The intention is to acquire a sense of the working dynamics of the post-positivist thought, so as to better understand its possible implications for the writing of history. In the concluding section an argument is proposed to the effect that, although the post-positivist interest in re-writing of history can in principle be admitted as entirely legitimate, its legitimacy depends on introducing some substantive constraints on content, in addition to the formal considerations that post-positivist discourse generally tends to favor. It is further suggested that this constraint should take the form of a requirement on historical literacy the meaning of which is, finally, elucidated by drawing a contrast with historical common sense.
Keywords post-positivism  representation  constructivism  narrative  avant-garde  literacy  common sense
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DOI 10.1111/hith.12101
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