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Maynooth Philosophical Papers

Volume 9, 2018

Jonathan Gorman
Pages 59-79

Traditions in Philosophy of History

I summarize the history of twentieth-century theorizing about history by historians and by philosophers of different traditions. I clarify the nature of ‘analytical’ philosophy, with philosophical arguments imagined to exist in a shared atemporal space. Analytical philosophy of history largely presupposed David Hume’s empiricism, explicit in Carl Hempel’s 1942 analysis of historical explanation as causal. Others argued for reasons instead, but by 1965 analytical philosophers were analysing historical narratives. Many theorists were unclear about the nature of philosophical method, and ‘empathizing’ with them is fruitful. Empathy is here analysed as shared imagination, where the space imagined is not atemporal but time-extended. Making meaningful sense of our shared world requires the denial of Hume’s view that ‘complexes’ are built entirely out of ‘simples’, and we can think of historical narratives as units of time-extended empirical significance. That we can make our world is argued for and illustrated.

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