A new look at an old question: on the agreements and disagreements between the sciences and the writing of history
In the past three answers have been given to the question mentioned in the title: 1) the scientist deals with the universal and the historian with the unique (Windelband), 2) the scientist deals with nature and the historian with a culture that is permeated by ethical norms (Rickert) and 3) the scientist 'explains' the world whereas the historian relies on 'empathic understanding' hence 'erklren versus verstehen' (Vico, Droysen, Dilthey, Collingwood). Though the 'erklaren versus verstehen' variant survives in contemporary philosophy in the form of the kind of hermeneutics advocated by e.g. Quentin Skinner and Mark Bevir, few philosophers of history address nowadays the problem of the relationship between history and the sciences. The issue is simply no longer on the agenda.
When taking up this old question again I wish to approach it from a new perspective, namely that of logic. To put my argument in a nutshell, 1) if one distinguishes between traditional Aristotelian logic and modern formal logic, room is left for what one might call 'representationalist logic' sharing elements of both while not being reducible to either of them. More specifically, this representationalist logic embraces with Aristotelian logic the 'praedicatum inest subjecto' principle, and it has in common with formal logic the latter's relationalism and the idea that meaning is not a model of the world, but inversely, that the world is a model of meaning. Finally, historical representation obeys the rules of representationalist logic.
This means the end to all attempts to rely on epistemology (logical-positivist, hermeneutical, or whatever) for an understanding of historical writing. For the nature of the relationship between logic (or mathematics) and the world is a metaphysical and not an epistemological problem.
The roots of representationalist logic can be found in Leibniz's metaphysics. Further insights into its nature can be found in the controversies in the first decade of the previous century between Cohen, Natorp and Cassirer, on the one hand, and Frege and Russell, on the other.
Location: Russell House All Rooms Sponsor: Center for the Humanities URL: Contact: Erinn Savage, firstname.lastname@example.org