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The Tri-partite Theory of Justification of Historiography

I have built this book on the contributions of the narrativist philosophy of historiography although I have also departed substantially from its model. It is now possible to reformulate the central contribution of the narrativist school as the insight that historical knowledge in synthesized form - regardless of whether this is taken to mean historical theses and/ or colligatory expressions - is the most important and interesting kind of knowledge that historiography produces. This to say that philosophical analyses should pay particular attention to this kind of knowledge. The fundamental problem with narrativism is that it cannot provide an epistemologically or otherwise cognitively meaningful evaluative framework for this kind of higher-order historical knowledge. Now, it is time to explain how we can keep the essence of the narrativist insight but to also formulate a cognitively meaningful approach to evaluation in historiography. The answer provided is in part based on the conclusions of earlier chapters and in part a continuation of the reasoning that led to them.

Before discussing the 'positive' theory of historiographical evaluation, it is useful to clarify my relation to postmodernism because narrativism has often been seen as postmodernist. After that is done, I will introduce three dimensions of historiographical evaluation: the epistemological, the rhetorical and the discursive. The focus in this chapter is specifically on the discursive dimension, which has not yet been studied extensively. In relation to this, a particular point of interest is Quentin Skinner's theory of speech acts in intellectual history. The next step in this chapter is to explain what argumentative context and argumentative intervention are through an example of the First World War. At the end, I will draw all the evaluative aspects together for a comprehensive theory of justification in historiography.

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