The idea of a philosophy of history

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Jonas Ahlskog
Publication year: 2018
Journal: Rethinking History
Volume number: 22
Issue number: 1
Start page: 86
End page: 104


It has recently been argued that the philosophical study of professional
history constitutes a subfield of epistemology. Consequently, the
philosophy of history is cast as only one particular species of the
general study of the relationship between evidence and theory in
scientific practice. This view is based upon an absolute separation
between substantive and critical philosophy of history. By such a
separation, substantive philosophy of history is dismissed as
speculative metaphysics, while critical philosophy of history is
vindicated as a respectable branch of epistemology. The attempt to
delineate a strictly epistemological realm of history was a central part
of the programme for analytically styled philosophy of history in the
1950–1970s era. This programme has been resurrected by contemporary
empiricist trends. In this essay, I will argue against the basic ideas
of this programme through a reassessment of Hayden White’s so-called
narrativist philosophy of history. As I will show, criticizing the
distinction between metaphysics and epistemology in history is an
essential and important feature of White’s contribution to the
philosophy of history. This feature has, I claim, been overshadowed by
formalist interpretations of White’s ‘narrativism’. In conclusion, I
argue that White’s concept of prefiguration will fundamentally question
the viability of current attempts to develop a purely epistemological
philosophy of history.

Last updated on 2019-13-11 at 04:53