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Our Knowledge of the Past
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 (ISBN-13: 9780511192548 | ISBN-10: 0511192541)

How do historians, comparative linguists, biblical and textual critics and evolutionary biologists establish beliefs about the past? How do they know the past? This book presents a philosophical analysis of the disciplines that offer scientific knowledge of the past. Using the analytic tools of contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science the book covers such topics as evidence, theory, methodology, explanation, determination and underdetermination, coincidence, contingency and counterfactuals in historiography. Aviezer Tucker's central claim is that historiography as a scientific discipline should be thought of as an effort to explain the evidence of past events. He also emphasizes the similarity between historiographic methodology to Darwinian evolutionary biology. This is an important, fresh approach to historiography and will be read by philosophers, historians and social scientists interested in the methodological foundations of their disciplines.

• New philosophical study of our knowledge of the past • Focus is both historical and conceptual • Endorsement by Elliott Sober, who is a leading figure in the philosophy of science


Introduction. The philosophy of historiography; 1. Consensus and historiographic knowledge; 2. The history of knowledge of history; 3. The theory of scientific historiography; 4. Historiographic opinion; 5. Historiographic explanation; 6. The limits of historiographic knowledge; Conclusion. Historiography and history.


Review of the hardback: 'This is an important work on a topic - the development of a scientific approach to historical knowledge. Tucker treats this problem both historically (tracing the emergence of a scientific approach back to early nineteenth-century historians such as Ranke) and also conceptually (grappling with the probabilistic nature of inferences about the past). He also identifies parallel developments in other disciplines including textual criticism and evolutionary biology. The book reminds me of Ian Hacking's work on the history of probability theory, in that both combine history and conceptual analysis in a fruitful way.' Elliott Sober, Stanford University

Review of the hardback: 'This is an important book … Tucker importantly attends also to the non-scientific and underdetermined nature of historiographic interpretation … I affirm the importance of Tucker's book. His is a question worth asking.' Journal of Philosophy

Review of the hardback: '… a well-informed and accessible guide to the main modern approaches to the key questions that underlie the writing of history …' Historiographia Linguistica

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