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Underdetermination and Epistemic Values

'There is no higher knowledge, or hot-line to the gods, which tells us that the Renaissance, or for that matter the Enlightenment, actually took place' (Marwick 2001, 67). These words of Marwick might be said to capture the message of the previous chapter. It was concluded that colligatory concepts are constructions without counterparts in historical reality. From this it follows that it is impossible to justify their construction, and thus to credit them with epistemic authority, on the premise that they merely reflect what there is in the past. And this is so both in terms of reference and in terms of categorizing, 'carving nature at its joints', as Plato is said to have put it. Does this mean that colligatory concepts are mere random figments of the imagination? No, it does not. It is one thing to say that we cannot justify their existence in a historiographical discourse in the framework of (ontological) realism and quite another to claim that they have no cognitive warrant whatsoever. The challenge is therefore to spell out what it is that could justify the construction of a colligatory concept, provided that colligatory expressions are an indispensable part of historical scholarship. This is the task of the present chapter. First, I will consider whether it is possible to empirically justify colligatory concepts as uniquely correct either inferentially from data or as correct in light of data after the construction of a colligatory concept. Again, the answer will be negative. For this reason, most of the chapter concentrates on finding another kind of rational justification with the help of epistemic values.

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