Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
Narrative as a Form of Explanation
Many scholars have argued that history embodies a different form of explanation than natural science. This paper provides an analysis of narrative conceived as the form of explanation appropriate to history. In narratives, actions, beliefs, and pro-attitudes are joined to one another by means of conditional and volitional connections. Conditional connections exist when beliefs and pro-attitudes pick up themes contained in one another, where the nature of such themes can be analysed by reference to the non-necessary and non-arbitrary nature of conditionality. Volitional connections exist when agents command themselves to do something, having decided to do it because of a pro-attitude they hold. The paper uses examples to indicate how conditional and volitional connections can explain large-scale change as well as individual actions.