Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What is Historicism?

Historicism is a somewhat obscure term, but one does occasionally encounter it in philosophy, and especially in discussions about the theory and nature of history, so I thought it might be worthwhile to pause for a moment and discuss it.
Historicism is the view, first advanced byGiambattista Vico, and later rediscovered (apparently independently) by German historians, that there does not exist any extra-historical perspective on which judgments about people or ideas can be grounded. Put another way, there is no such thing as a “general category,” a “universal principle,” or “human nature” inherent in reality itself—there are only individual objects, individual people, and their interpretations of reality, where reality is conceived of as one enormous, unconquerable brute fact, about which we can entertain notions, but cannot have knowledge.

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