The Quarrel About the philosophical question of the Historical Explanation

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Master'sA-, December 1996

download word file, 2 pages 3.5 1 reviews

Downloaded 63 times

The discussion of the philosophical question of historical explanation is in reality a disagreement concerning the nature of the philosophic method.

There are primarily two sides taken in this argument, those who agree with Carl Hempel and those that do not.

According to Hempel a historical event is only sufficiently explained when it logically fits a set of confirmed pre-existing conditions along with some universal laws.

Certainly all things cannot easily be assigned to rules and laws. Political coups, assassinations and revolutions are too complex for such a rigid explanation. And who is to say what perquisites there are for situations. Certainly there is no one who can predict every instance of a given event, there are just too many variables.

Hempel then notes that Historians are seldom able to stick to his procedure and at best can only make an explanation sketch. Hempel seems to be saying then, that the majority of explanations surrounding historical events are inadequate and incomplete.

There are three main divisions of anti-Hempelians. There are those that agree with Hempel to the point that there are rules and general laws that can be followed, but a historian's explanation is adequate if all he can provide is a sketch. The second group states that the general laws are not necessary and as long as the explanation provides an understandable narrative, it is complete. The final group believes that only one condition is necessary, and if more information is needed, one only needs to elaborate on that one condition.

The Hempelians and the anti-Hempelians both have common ground. They are both engaged in the philosophy of history, but this is where the agreement stops for even the groups starting points are different.

Hempelians give their explanations to answer the question of why something happened. Their objective is...