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A survey of the literature of the philosophy of history


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Butler, A. Ross 1977 , 'A survey of the literature of the philosophy of history', Unspecified thesis, Tasmanian College of Advanced Education.

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It is widely accepted that philosophy of
history may be divided into two main parts: analytical
philosophy of history and, what is variously termed
- substantive, or speculative philosophy of history.
The former is taken by many writers to be what
Gardiner calls "a second-order form of inquiry" having
as an aim not "to elucidate and assess the human past
itself, but ... to elucidate and assess the ways in
which historians typically describe or comprehend that
past." It has to do with such matters as "the presuppositions
underlying historical narratives, the
categories implicit in historical judgement and
explanation, and the modes of argument whereby historical
conclusions are supported or established." It is in part
two of this dissertation that consideration is given to
some of the issues and questions which typically appear
under the rubric "analytical philosophy of history."
Speculative or substantive philosophy of
history generally takes as its subject matter history as
a whole. For writers whose works have been assigned by
critics to this category of inquiry a major concern has
frequently been that of seeking order in the apparently
chaotic stream of historical events. Attempts have been
made to discern "meaning" or "significance" in the course
of events; to see in events the embodiment of a principle,
or a necessary component in an overall scheme of things,
the final realization of which may be worldly or otherworldly.
The course of events is variously seen as
serving the end of the perfectibility of man and his
social relations or the eschatological vision of religion.
Attempts have been made by some writers, impressed
by the advances made by science through the formulation
of laws and generalizations, to discover universal
laws of human nature or of history by which the events of history could be explained (and, as implied by some,
predicted) with the same certainty and,precision found
in science.
The status of empirical inquiry has frequently
been claimed for "speculative philosophies of history."
But this has been denied by practising historians and
philosophers distrustful of the over-predominant
aprioristic overtones found in these writings. As Dray
has pointed out, "the construction of speculative systems
of history is somewhat out of fashion" but has "still
not quite achieved the fossil status often attributed to
cosmology."6 He cites as the reason for this the predominantly
Judaic-Christian nature of our culture and
the expectation that history should be "meaningful."
Part one consists of an historical outline of
philosophical reflection on history and incorporates
consideration of the ideas of "speculative philosophers
of history."

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Butler, A. Ross
Keywords: History
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1977 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Ed.)--Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, 1977. Includes bibliographical references

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