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historical relativism

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of history, epistemology The claim that historical explanation cannot be objective on the model of scientific explanation, which is based on a methodology of theory , observation , and experiment. Some philosophers agree that history does not have scientific objectivity, but claim that history and other subjects have their own appropriate notions of objectivity , while others explore the implications of the claim that historical explanation cannot be objective. Historians draw conclusions from documentation, but historical records may be neither faithful nor complete. In analyzing historical documentation, a historian is not a perfectly neutral investigator, but is equipped with an array of horizons , biases, and prejudices that can limit or distort historical work and also make it possible. For this reason, different historians may reach remarkably different conclusions from the same material. Historical knowledge apparently must be relative to the minds of different historians or to the wider factors that shape their minds. Unless we have reason to believe that some factors are more likely to produce truth than others, we can clarify the patterns of relativity , but we cannot choose among historical interpretations based on them. In contrast to historical relativism, historical objectivism claims that historical knowledge can provide an exact reconstruction ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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