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Key questions for “new” philosophy of history

      Some of the questions I am interested in probing include—


·      What is history—a stream of events, a set of interlocking processes, a narrative, a set of actors with overlapping influences?

·      What is historical causation? Are there social mechanisms that explain historical change?

·      Is there such a thing as “historical necessity”?  What would this be? Is there “inevitability” or “necessity” in history? What is the scope of contingency in historical change?

·      What is a historical narrative?

·      Are there generalizations in history? Are there social laws? Are there large recurring factors in history that play an important explanatory role in many distinct settings?

·      What range of interpretative “under-determination” exists in historical inquiry?

·      Is there such a thing as “objective historical knowledge” or “factual historical knowledge”?

·      What assumptions do historians make about the nature of structures, entities, and processes in historical phenomena (modes of production, economic systems, revolutions, riots, wars)?

·      What is the relationship between agency and structure in historical explanation?

·      How do ideas and mentalités play in historical change?

·      How do comparisons function in historical writing?

·      Is there an important role for comparative method in historical inquiry (e.g. economic development in Western Europe and East Asia)?

·      Can we give a middle-range description of the logic of historical assertions and inquiry?

·      What is a historical process?

·      What can comparative historical research tell us about large historical change?

·      Are there grounds for defining the scope of historical analysis—period, region?

·      Are there historical epochs?

·      What is the role of theory and hypothesis in historical analysis? How do social science and social theory play roles in historical explanation?

·      How do historical events and structures hang together—what constitutes the unity or identity of a complex historical event (French revolution, White Lotus rebellion)?

·      Are there similar large historical processes in separate regions?

·      What is the relationship between the micro and macro levels of historical inquiry?

·      What is a “social structure” and how does it acquire causal powers?

·      Do “perspective” and “orientation” play a role in historical interpretation and analysis?

·      What are the dimensions of uncertainty in historical research and inquiry?

·      What is bias?  Interest, situation.

·      What issues arise in linking available historical evidence to historical interpretations?

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