Chaos, History, and Narrative

History and Theory 30 (1):1-20 (1991)

George Reisch
Northwestern University
Hempel's proposal of covering laws which explain historical events has a certain plausibility, but can never be actually realized due to the chaotic nature of history. The natural laws that would govern both individual lives and greater history would be nonlinear; consequently, in the terminology of chaos theory, the final states of both are extremely sensitive to initial conditions. Initial conditions would need to be exactly known in order to account correctly for historic phenomena, especially for causes and effects which span long, historically interesting, lengths of time. Covering-law history therefore fails because the details of initial conditions are generally unknowable. Since this constraint diminishes as the time over which covering laws operate is divided into smaller consecutive intervals of scenes, covering-law explanations resolve into those having a narrative temporal structure
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DOI 10.2307/2505288
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References found in this work BETA

The Function of General Laws in History.Carl G. Hempel - 1942 - Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):35-48.

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