The Historicism of the Scientistic Approach

Edited by Bruce Caldwell

in Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226321097
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226321127 | DOI:
The Historicism of the Scientistic Approach

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This chapter studies “historicism,” which is described as a product of the scientistic approach. This may cause surprise, since historicism is usually represented as the opposite of the treatment of social phenomena on the model of the natural sciences. But the view for which this term is properly used (and which must not be confused with the true method of historical study) proves on closer consideration to be a result of the same prejudices as the other typical scientistic misconceptions of social phenomena. If the suggestion that historicism is a form rather than the opposite of scientism has still somewhat the appearance of a paradox, this is so because the term is used in two different, and in some respects opposite and yet frequently confused, senses: for the older view that justly contrasted the specific task of the historian with that of the scientist and which denied the possibility of a theoretical science of history, and for the later view which, on the contrary, affirms that history is the only road that can lead to a theoretical science of social phenomena. However great the contrast between these two views sometimes called “historicism,” if we take them in their extreme forms, they have yet enough in common to have made possible a gradual and almost unperceived transition from the historical method of the historian to the scientistic historicism that attempts to make history a “science” and the only science of social phenomena.

Keywords: historicism; scientistic misconception; collectivism; objectivism; scientistic approach; social science; social phenomena; social interactions; positivists; social behavior

Chapter.  8808 words. 

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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