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A Problem of our own Making: Roth on Historical Explanation

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Roth claims that in constituting the sorts of events they want to connect, historians conceive matters that may not correlate with any inventory of elements eligible for admission by natural science. Given “the liabilities incurred by the very questions historians choose to ask,” the question of historical explanation is a problem of our own making. “Previous challenges to the epistemic legitimacy of historical explanations lose their point,” for no one can ask what kind of science or what kind of explanation history is, since it is none! This is, unsurprisingly, an unacceptable outcome for me. A case can be made for intersubjective assertability of a historical interpretation and the contestation of it – however tentatively, fallibly, partially – without a complete collapse into the aesthetics of form or the politics of the formulator. The task of the philosophy of history is to work out the reconciliation of the performative with the constative in historical writing and in historical appraisal.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of History MS42, Rice University, Houston, USA;, Email:


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