History and Theory 27 (1):1-13 (1988)

Paul A. Roth
University of California, Santa Cruz
The very idea of narrative explanation invites two objections: a methodological objection, stating that narrative structure is too far from the form of a scientific explanation to count as an explanation, and a metaphysical objection, stating that narrative structure situates historical practice too close to the writing of fiction. Both of these objections, however, are illfounded. The methodological objection and the dispute regarding the status of historical explanation can be disposed of by revealing their motivating presupposition: the plausibility of an exclusivist explication of explanation which appeals either to the unity-of-method thesis or some implicit notion of analytic equivalence, both problematic philosophical doctrines. The metaphysical objection fails with the rejection of the idea, in Mink's phrase, of an "untold story." The argument against history as an "untold story" develops from Danto's image of an Ideal Chronicler recording ideal events. A consequence of rejecting this view is that it no longer makes sense to speak of historical narratives as true or false. However, this failure engenders no special problem for assessing the objectivity or explanatory utility of narratives qua explanations
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DOI 10.2307/2504958
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Ways of Pastmaking.Paul A. Roth - 2002 - History of the Human Sciences 15 (4):125-143.
Narratives and Action Explanation.Thomas Uebel - 2012 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42 (1):31-67.

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