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Conclusion: justification in historiography

It is time to draw the whole evaluative framework together. In this chapter, the focus has been on the discursive dimension, that is, on historiographical texts as argumentative interventions in argumentative contexts. Chapter 5 examined the rhetorical dimension, that is, historiographical texts as reasoning for specific points of view. And Chapter 6 discussed the epistemic dimension, that is, the role of epistemic values in choosing and ordering colligatory expressions. These three dimensions together amount to the cognitive justification of historical works and specifically of the arguments that they contain (Figure 9.1). 'Cognitive' refers here to criteria that are relevant for historiography as a form of knowledge. However, as has been discussed previously, synthesizing historical theses should normally not be evaluated truth-functionally. Instead, historiography should be seen as making assertions concerning the past, and when these assertions are successful, they are warranted. The type of cognitive justification in historiography is thus that of warranted assertion. This view is in accordance with seeing historiography as a form of rational practice and as operating in the domain of rationality.

So, what is a 'warranted assertion' in historiography? It is a case in which the historian has managed to construct a rationally persuasive argument for some specific point or conclusion. In addition, this

Cognitive justification in historiography

Figure 9.1 Cognitive justification in historiography

conclusion and its colligatory notions suggest an insightful way of making sense of the past and exemplify historical data - that is, provide a comprehensive account of the data available that is also internally coherent and subsumes the wide scope of phenomena under it. Further, the argument of the text also makes a successful argumentative intervention with regard to prevailing conceptions, questioning and correcting them in some way, while defending its own approach by reference to the argumentative resources presented in the historian's book.

Now it is time to make the transition to the last substantial chapter of the book, Chapter 10, which explores some broader philosophical topics in connection with the tri-partite justification of historiography. Where is historiography as a whole located on the axis of subjectivity and objectivity? In what sense can one talk about rational practice? What does 'rationality' mean? Are the phenomena asserted in historiography real with respect to the past? Can objects be real if they are constructed?

 
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