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Mindblind Philosophy of History

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Historical explanation after Hempel came to be discussed in terms of a contrast between nomic explanations and rationalizations, and later between cause and narrative. This period can be taken as an historical parenthesis, in which the notion of cause narrowed and the notion of historical understanding as empathic dropped out. In the present philosophical landscape there are different models of cause available, especially in the causal modeling literature, and a revived appreciation, through the philosophy of mind and in light of such discoveries as mirror neurons, of empathy. The newer causal modeling literature foregrounds the problem of confounding or overdetermination, but solves it in ways inimical to historical explanation. Empathy, however, represents an alternative solution, available to the historian, in which causal relevance can be assessed and established in terms of its role in the reenacted experience of the historical subject. This suggests the idea that the art of history is using historical evidence to show what people might have thought and felt under past circumstances, in ways that engage our capacities to mind-read – capacities established by cognitive science.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of South Florida;, Email:


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