The Concept of Man as Presupposed by the Historical Studies

Part of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures book series


I should like to begin by removing a misconception to which the title of this lecture may possibly give rise. My concern is not with general propositions regarding certain fairly well-attested human characteristics of the kind to which historians may, from time to time, advert in the course of their work or to which they may appeal in support of the account provided of some particular event or occurrence. I am not myself an historian, and for me to make ex cathedra pronouncements on such topics as these might well seem to constitute an unjustifiable intrusion upon a field about which I am not qualified professionally to speak. My subject lies within the sphere of philosophy of history rather than of history proper; it belongs, in other words, to a branch of philosophical inquiry, and as such relates, not to empirical facts and events of the sort to which the practising historian addresses himself, but to those assumptions, categories and modes of procedure that are, or are believed to be, intrinsic to historical thought and discourse. In this general context I wish to discuss two approaches to the problem of elucidating the character of historical knowledge and explanation. Both of the approaches I have in mind have achieved a considerable measure of support at the present time; they have also been widely understood as offering profoundly divergent — indeed, diametrically opposed — views of what is central to the structure of historical thinking and to the type of activity upon which the historian is essentially engaged.


Historical Study Rational Explanation Historical Knowledge Historical Explanation Causal Determinism 
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  1. 1.
    E. H. Carr, What is History? (London, 1961) p. 107.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Meaning in History, ed. H. P. Rickman (London, 1961) p. 67.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    ‘The Historical Explanation of Actions Reconsidered’, in Philosophy and History, ed. S. Hook (New York, 1963) p. 131.Google Scholar

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© The Royal Institute of Philosophy 1971

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