Frederick Beiser

in The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199234097
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:



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Historicism was one of the most important intellectual movements of the nineteenth century. The term ‘historicism’ has meant many things to many people, and it has been defined by conflicting doctrines. This article defines historicism not as a doctrine but as a programme. This programme, which began in the middle of the eighteenth century and extended throughout most of the nineteenth century, had a simple but ambitious goal: to legitimate history as a science. The historicists wanted history to enjoy the same status and prestige as the natural sciences; but they claimed that it had its own goals, methods, and standards of knowledge, which were unlike those of the natural sciences. Just what these methods and goals should be was a matter of dispute; but it was generally agreed that they were not reducible to those of the natural sciences, and that they should be distinct from those of metaphysics.

Keywords: historicism; doctrines; programme; sciences; metaphysics

Article.  10237 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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