Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Why We Cannot Make History. Some Remarks on a Lesson from Early Historicism

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Journal of the Philosophy of History

There are various perspectives from which the meaning of historicism can be understood. Historically, the interpretation of historicism has predominantly been interested in either questions concerning historical methodology, or the relationship between the natural and human sciences, or the normative consequences of historicism. My intention is not to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of these different research approaches, but rather to supplement them by confronting the meaning of historicism from the perspective of a different question. Did historicism in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries formulate a notion of historical chance or of historical contingency, a notion of what is neither necessary nor impossible in history but rather the result of accident and chance? To answer this question, I begin with Reinhart Koselleck’s interpretation of historicism presented in two rather short essays, “Der Zufall als Motivationsrest in der Geschichtsschreibung” and “Über die Verfügbarkeit von Geschichte”. In the next step of my analysis, I confront Koselleck’s interpretation of the historicist sensibility for contingency and chance with Odo Marquard’s conceptual distinction between two notions of contingency and chance. This line of argumentation gives rise to a definition of historicism as a theoretical sensibility for the “fatefully accidental” (Marquard). I further support this claim with an analysis of Savigny’s legal history, of Schleiermacher’s theology and of the “anti-Faustian” (Werner Busch) art of Caspar David Friedrich. Historicism ultimately teaches us that history is never the exact outcome of the intentions of historical actors. Though human beings undeniably act in history, they cannot make history or at least cannot make it as they please. It is in this regard that I find, in my concluding remarks, Hermann Lübbe’s description of historicism as a “sermon of human finitude” to be wholly accurate.

Affiliations: 1: Email:


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Journal of the Philosophy of History — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation