Interpretation in Historiography and Historiography of Science
Workshop on Philosophy of History and Historiography
University of Hull
Wilberforce Building LT 15
May 22, 2013
What is the relation between historical interpretation and the historical record? This is a question that is equally fundamental in the philosophy of general historiography and in the philosophy of the historiography of science.
In one extreme, we find traditional meta-interpretations of the history of science, in which science is judged to gradually progress towards the truth. In the other extreme, there are anthropological studies of science, which limit historical interpretation, “science in the making,” to the first-hand observations of scientists’ activity.
The 19th century Rankeanism, which implies that one can describe the past as it really was, wie es eigentlich gewesen, has held sway in historiography for long. However, in recent decades the narrativist philosophy of historiography has argued that historical interpretation is a matter of creative and aesthetic construction, not to be evaluated epistemologically at all. Further, some programmatic postmodernists suggest that the only rationale in historiography is to enhance discussion of moral and ethical problems in our contemporary culture.
What is the relation between historical interpretation and the historical record? Is it conceivable that historical data could determine any theses on history? Does the problem of underdetermination apply equally to historical interpretation as to scientific theories? Are there perhaps epistemic values or other epistemic constraints that limit the number of reasonable historical interpretations? Should we limit interpretation to microhistorical radical empiricism, which tries to avoid imposing any generalising narratives? What does such an approach imply philosophically? And is it possible to have a historical representation without any synthetizing narrative in the first place?
These and other related questions will be discussed in this workshop. It brings together scholars working in the philosophy of historiography and in the philosophy of the historiography of science.
9.45-10.00 Welcome and coffee
10.00-11.30 John Christie (Oxford): “Philosophical Historiography of Science”
11.30-11.45 Coffee break
11.45-13.15 Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen (Hull): “Colligatory Concepts: Figments of Literary Imagination or Faithful Copies of the Past?”
13.15-14.15 Lunch break
14.15-16.00 Rogier de Langhe (Tilburg): TBA
16.00-16.15 Coffee break
16.15-18.00 James W. McAllister (Leiden): “Tensions between Empiricism and Interpretation in Historiography of Science”
Attending the workshop is free and all are welcome.
This workshop is supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and Philosophy at the University of Hull.