History and Theory 28 (2):154-172 (1989)

Contemporary analytical philosophy has not provided historians with an adequate account of their causal reasoning. Attempts to apply the laws of scientific explanation to history have occasioned an artificial split between historical interpretation and historical explanation. The lawlike generalizations of the natural sciences are both perfectly universal and perfectly delimited, whereas the typical generalizations of the historian are imperfectly universal and imperfectly delimited. In historical analysis, a particular development is hypothetically posited as the ordinary course of events, or as the established "trend," and an intervening process or set of conditions is identified as the cause of some alteration in the expected outcome. It is important to differentiate between historical events and the actions of historical figures. The analysis of historical actions requires attention to a second layer of interpretation, that of intention. In a good narrative, everything "important" for the actual outcome will be clearly displayed and cogently ordered in a network of interacting causal sequences; for that is what the historian means when he proposes to "tell the whole story."
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DOI 10.2307/2505033
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