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The Philosophy of Historiography - First Version

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Copyright 2010 by John Norman
Distributed by Amazon Kindle, Seattle
Published by Amazon Kindle, Seattle

First Version - 2010 (October 7, 2010)

ASIN B0046A9SNK | ISBN 1-61756-130-4

Format: eBook | (Paperback)

US 13.79 | Filesize 928 KB
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This book is intended for the highly intelligent reader, who is interested in considering the difficulties, problems, and challenges of understanding and writing about the human past. It is popularly enough written, hopefully, to be a joy to read, and scholarly enough to be seriously instructive. The book has two major purposes, first, to give a reader an extensive, detailed overview of the field as it currently exists, and, second, to considerably enlarge the field itself, as it is the first book in the area to consider not only the epistemology of the field, but, in detail, its logic and semantics, its metaphysics, its axiology and its aesthetics.

Prologue: There are these passengers on a ship, you see. It might be a ship, but perhaps not. If it is a ship, it is not clear it has a rudder. It may drift with currents, responsive to dynamics with which we are not familiar. Is the ship on some course, arranged on a captainÆs bridge, to which we have no access? Could we ourselves take the helm? We have some sense of where the ship has been, put together from fragments, abetted by shrewd guesswork. But we cannot, as yet, find the helm, and if this were managed, somehow, it is not clear what course we might chart, or if, given the sea, the winds, and such, we might inadvertently guide the ship into waters unforeseen and best avoided. Perhaps most interestingly, most of our fellow passengers are unaware of the existence of the ship, and live, and replicate, and die, in their cabins, unconcerned with the ship and its course, or whether it has a course. Perhaps they are the wisest of all. But that is not clear.

Part One: Preliminary Considerations I. Introduction

It is amazing that one of the most neglected domains of philosophical inquiry is that to which one would expect to find addressed constant and profound attention, namely, the multiplex histories of which we find ourselves the product. It is not altogether obvious why this should be the case. Consider, for example, the philosophy of science. That is, assuredly, an important and justifiably prestigious discipline within the philosophical enterprise; it is honored with considerable and well-deserved attention, and has profited, happily, from the labors of a number of unusually gifted philosophers. One begrudges her nothing, but her eminence does, given inevitable comparisons, surprise one. Why so much interest there? Or, perhaps better, why not similar interest elsewhere? Certainly science affects our lives and illuminates our understanding; it gives us aspirin and atomic weaponry, jet engines and drip-dry shirts, fountain pens, if anyone remembers such things, and computers, and life-saving surgery and poison gas. It improves immeasurably the quality of our lives and puts the means of universal extermination in the hands of sociopathic lunatics. Surely it deserves philosophical attention, and who has not wondered about stars and space, galaxies and quarks, such things. To try to philosophically grasp such an endeavor, to consider this remarkable path to knowledge, is an estimable inquiry. On the other hand, science has a bottom, so to speak, regardless of whether or not one gets there. It ends somewhere; it is finite. Somewhere the last fact lurks. Perhaps history has, too, so to speak, a bottom, but the complexities of understanding her are immeasurably deeper, and, perhaps, of greater importance. In history there may be no last fact. And, if there is, it is unlikely to be found. Atoms were presumably no more about in the time of Sargon of Akkad than they are today. But historyÆs lessons of aggression and imperialism may weigh more heavily in speculations concerning human survival than valence bonds and molecules. Quarks were about when Buddha sat beneath a shade-giving tree and Jesus preached in Galilee. Quarks were doubtless much the same then as now, but history is different. Perhaps the prestige of science redounds to the prestige of...

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