cover of book

The Philosophical Structure of Historical Explanation
by Paul A. Roth
Northwestern University Press, 2019
Paper: 978-0-8101-4087-5 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-4089-9 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-4088-2
Library of Congress Classification D16.8.R849 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 901


In The Philosophical Structure of Historical Explanation, Paul A. Roth develops an argument that resolves disputes persisting since the nineteenth century about the scientific status of history. He does this by showing why historical explanations must take the form of a narrative, making their logic explicit, and revealing how the rational evaluation of narrative explanation becomes possible.

The book also develops a nonrealist (irrealist) metaphysics and epistemology of history—that is, it argues that there exists no one fixed past, but many pasts. It includes a novel reading of Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, displaying how Kuhn offers a narrative explanation of theory change in science. And it situates narrative explanations within a naturalistic framework. 

The first four chapters defuse methodological and metaphysical objections to narrative explanations. The final three chapters explore how narrative explanations relate to other sciences. This book will be of interest to researchers in historiography, philosophy of history, philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, and epistemology. 

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