On the Concepts of Historical Possibility and Necessity
According to W. Dray, whom I quoted in the previous essay, ‘(…) there is an important distinction to be drawn between explaining why a thing happened and answering a certain kind of “how” question about it. In the latter case (…), the historian need not show that what is to be explained happened necessarily in the light of the particular events and conditions mentioned in the explanation, and, a fortiori, need not show that it happened necessarily in the light of some covering law or laws. For the demand for explanation is, in some contexts, satisfactorily met if what happened is merely shown to have been possible (…).’ ‘In explaining why something happened (…), we rebut a presumption that it need not have happened, by showing that, in the light of certain considerations (perhaps laws as well as facts), it had to happen. But in explaining how something could have happened, by showing that, in the light of certain further facts, there is after all no good reason for supposing that it could not have happened.’1
KeywordsSocial Practice Objective Condition Torical Variant Historical Variant Social Consciousness
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