Article

Philosophy of History

Daniel Little

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0043
Philosophy of History

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When philosophers have written about “history,” they have often had different and even incompatible goals in mind. One tradition of philosophers, generally from Continental Europe and originating in the 18th century, has wanted to contribute to answers to large questions about the nature of history as it presented itself over time as a compound of individuals, actions, nations, and civilizations: Does history have a direction? Is there a unity to history? Does history have meaning? Is there a plan to history? Do civilizations rise and fall? Is materialism or idealism the better framework for understanding the movement of history? This approach to the study of history is often referred to as “speculative” or “substantive.” A second tradition, related to the first, applies the methods and frameworks of hermeneutics to the understanding of history. Within this approach, the central task of historians is to provide intelligible explications of the actions chosen by historical actors. A third tradition, largely Anglo-American and 20th-century, rejects the goal of providing commentary on “history” at all, and focuses instead on historical knowledge and historical explanation. This analytic tradition focuses on epistemology of historical knowledge rather than the metaphysics or large meanings of historical reality.

Article.  5900 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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