Margaret Alison Wylie
Analyses of basic concepts employed in historical interpretation, and study of some of the principal philosophers of history, such as Plato, Saint Augustine, Hegel, Marx, Spengler, Toynbee.
An honors capstone seminar that will focus on ideals of objectivity and constructivist challenges in history. If history is, as many claim, “rewritten by every generation of historians,” what sort of understanding does it provide of the past? Novick’s history of objectivist ideals, That Noble Dream (1988), Schama's Dead Certainties (1991), and Trouillot’s Silencing the Past (1996), are the point of departure for this exploration of this question, which has been as much a concern for practicing historians as for philosophers. Essays drawn from Hacking’s Historical Ontology (2002), and The Social Construction of What? (1999), provide a philosophical rationale for reframing the stark oppositions that have dominated debate about the status of historical knowledge, and Tucker’s recent philosophy of historiography, Our Knowledge of the Past (2004) offers a model of reasoning from the evidence of the past that extends well beyond the human, social history to the life sciences (evolutionary bioloy), and geological sciences.
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