1st Edition

Historical Explanation An Anti-Causalist Approach

By Gunnar Schumann Copyright 2024
    358 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is concerned with the appropriate form of explanations in historiography and the social sciences. It combines action theory and philosophy of historiography and develops a theory of teleological explanations of human actions based on late-Wittgensteinian and Ordinary Language Philosophy insights.

    In philosophy of action, many philosophers favor causal theories of human action. Additionally, in current philosophy of historiography the majority view is that historians should explain historical phenomena by their causes. This book pushes back against these mainstream views by reviving an anti-causal view of explanation of current and past human actions. The author argues that disciplines that deal with human actions require a certain form of explanation, namely a teleological or intentional explanation. This means that past human actions and their results will have to be explained by reasons of agents, not by causes. Therefore, historiography employs a method of explanation which is in stark contrast to the sciences. The author thus proposes a Verstehen (understanding) approach in historiography and the social sciences.

    Historical Explanation will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in philosophy of action, philosophy of history, and philosophy of the social sciences.

    1. Introduction

    1.1 Overview of the book

    1.2 Causalism and anti-causalism in the theory of action and the philosophy of historiography

    1.3 Historical overview

    1.4 On the conceptual method of this book

    2. The Subject Matter of Historiography and the Concepts of Explanation and Causation

    2.1 On the subject matter of historiography

    2.2 On the concept of explanation

    2.3 Excursus: On the concept of causation

    3. Action Theory

    3.1 What are actions?

    3.2 On explaining actions

    4. Historical Explanations

    4.1 Historical explanations as reason explanations

    4.2 Problems of the application of intentional explanations to historiographical subjects

    4.3 On collective actions

    4.4 Conclusions


    Gunnar Schumann is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany. He studied Philosophy, History of Art and Political Science. PhD in Philosophy 2012. He is the editor of Explanation in Action Theory and Historiography: Causal and Teleological Approaches (Routledge, 2019).

    "Historical Explanation: An Anti-Causalist Approach offers a forceful, thorough and convincing defence of a non-causalist account of action explanation, especially of explanations in historiography. The way Schumann applies insights from the analysis of the concepts of action and reason to various cases of historical explanation is original, perceptive and illuminating."

    Severin Schroeder, University of Reading, UK

    "This is an impressive piece of work, which provides a timely reminder of things forgotten. It is underpinned by years of research and makes a substantive contribution to the literature at the intersection of philosophy of history and philosophy of action."

    Giuseppina D’Oro, Keele University, UK