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History - what is it?

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 demdyke 21 May 2020

Hi,

I've just finished reading 'The Philosophy of History' (edited by Patrick Gardner, 1982, Oxford Readings in Philosophy). Does anyone know of a more up to date (and for me, a more accessible) introduction to the Philosophy of History? If not, then does anyone have any ideas which could spark me off such as; does 'history' begin with the past or does it have its roots here in the present? Is 'history' as full of gaps as science and therefore being as reliable/unreliable as science? Can we say that anything in history is 'true' now? Which philosopher (main line) dealt with the subject of history? Any suggestions and help would be appreciated.

 webbo 21 May 2020
In reply to demdyke:

No quite the philosophy of history but a good read is Medieval Intrigue by Ian Mortimer. Although this is to do with whether or not Edward the second died in 1327 or remained alive. He explores how historians use evidence or the lack it to put their views across and the bias they use when peer reviewing colleagues work. He also goes in to how philosophers would ridicule their methods.

In reply to demdyke:

I found "In Defence of History" by Richard J. Evans in a bargain bookshop back when they were a thing. It's one of the best 1.99s I've spent. It mainly looks at History as an academic discipline after the postmodernist assault of the 80s - that said it is impossible to know the "truth" of anything.

I remember it being very readable to non specialist, although I was reading a lot of international relations theory at the time, so that might have been relative!

edit: I've had a quick flick through, and it does look to be written in good clear unpretentious style - I suppose as a criticism of postmodernist writing it sort of had to be!

Post edited at 09:45
 felt 21 May 2020
In reply to demdyke:

Hayden White is a good starting point, although not the most accessible. He certainly addresses notions of truth, which you asked about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metahistory:_The_Historical_Imagination_in_Nineteenth-century_Europe 

In reply to felt:

Interesting, I thought that name sounded familiar, White is the historian who the Evans book above uses as a central point of debate with.

Second "interesting" - although maybe only to me, a ticket for Aiguille Di Midi cable car just fell out of my copy of in Defence of History! 11 Sept. 2000 - some how fitting for a recommendation on UKC.

 felt 21 May 2020
In reply to TobyA:

The date, a year earlier, or the locale? Yes, I can imagine Evans might find White a touch slippery.

 aln 21 May 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> bargain bookshop back when they were a thing. 

Charity shops!

In reply to felt:

> The date, a year earlier, or the locale?

All - although I've been climbing so long my ad hoc bookmarks often turn out to be climbing related! Those swing tickets of new items of kit work quite well. I think in the book I'm reading now it's a Crux one off a sleeping bag.

On history and memory and reliability, I wouldn't have had a clue what I was doing on 11/9/2000 if I hadn't found that ticket - I know I went to Chamonix that year with my partner, and I knew we were there relatively late in the season but I didn't remember we were well into September when we went up and camped on the Midi plateau. We arrived home in the midst of the fuel crisis so that must have been kicking off around then.

I know exactly where I was from mid afternoon onwards on that date 2001, although I don't remember what I had done during the day - another normal day in the office I guess.

In reply to demdyke:

Not quite the philosophy questions you were think about but definitely related...

If anyone is interested in how unreliable our own memories are when thinking about the past, Gladwell did a fun episode about the issue on his podcast. I happened to listen to it again this weekend when I was out on a long bike ride. http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/24-free-brian-williams

 demdyke 21 May 2020
In reply to webbo:

Thanks for that; much appreciated.

 demdyke 21 May 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Cheers. 

 demdyke 21 May 2020
In reply to felt:

Than you. I'll check that out.


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