Historiography, Philosophy of History and the Historical Turn in Analytic Philosophy

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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This article has three main interconnected aims. First, I illustrate the historiographical conceptions of three early analytic philosophers: Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein. Second, I consider some of the historiographical debates that have been generated by the recent historical turn in analytic philosophy, looking at the work of Scott Soames and Hans-Johann Glock, in particular. Third, I discuss Arthur Danto’s Analytic Philosophy of History, published 50 years ago, and argue for a reinvigorated analytic philosophy of history.

Historiography, Philosophy of History and the Historical Turn in Analytic Philosophy

in Journal of the Philosophy of History




Gottlob Frege‘Logic in Mathematics’ in Nachgelassene Schriften und wissenschaftlicher Briefwechseled. Gottlob Frege Hans Hermes Friedrich Kambartel and Friedrich Kaulbach 2nd edn. (Hamburg: F. Meiner1983) 219–270here p. 224; Gottlob Frege The Frege Reader ed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Blackwell 1997) p. 313.


Michael Beaney‘Frege and the Role of Historical Elucidation: Methodology and the Foundations of Mathematics’ in The Architecture of Modern Mathematics: Essays in History and Philosophyed. José Ferreirós and Jeremy Gray (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press2006) 49–71.


Gottlob FregeDie Grundlagen der Arithmetik (Breslau: W. Koebner1884) p. vii; Frege The Frege Reader p. 88.


Bertrand RussellMy Philosophical Development (London: George Allen and Unwin1985) p. 43.


RussellA Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz pp. 1–3.


RussellMy Philosophical Development p. 30.


WittgensteinPhilosophical Investigations p. 230.


Ernst CassirerLeibniz’ System in seinen wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen (Marburg: Elwert1902) p. 539.


See Gilbert Ryle‘Phenomenology versus The Concept of Mind’ in Critical EssaysCollected papers 1 (London New York: Routledge 2009) pp. 186–204. For an account of this conference see Søren Overgaard ‘Royaumont Revisited’ British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 no. 5 (2010) pp. 899–924. I comment briefly on this and the unfortunate choice of the term ‘continental philosophy’ in Michael Beaney ‘The Historiography of Analytic Philosophy’ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy ed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013) pp. 49–50.


Cf. Michael Beaney‘Soames on Philosophical Analysis’Philosophical Books 47 no. 3 (2006) 255–271; Beaney ‘The Historiography of Analytic Philosophy’ p. 55; Beaney ‘Analytic Philosophy and History of Philosophy: The Development of the Idea of Rational Reconstruction’ §5.3. Soames has since published the first volume of a new projected five-volume work on the history of analytic philosophy (2014). This volume begins more appropriately with two chapters on Frege. For a critique of these chapters however see Beaney ‘Soames on Frege: Provoking Thoughts’ Philosophical Studies 172 no. 6 (April 2015): 1651–1660 in a symposium dedicated to Soames’ new book.


See Michael Beaney‘Putting analysis rightfully back into analytic philosophy’Teorema: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 30 no. 1 (2011) 87–94.


Hans-Johann GlockWhat is Analytic Philosophy? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2008) p. 89.


Ibid. p. 90.


Ibid. p. 92.


Ibid. p. 101.


Ibid. p. 102.


GlockWhat is Analytic Philosophy? p. 95.


See especially Hans-Georg GadamerWahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik. (Tübingen: Mohr1960); Richard Rorty Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1979) ch. 8; Robert Brandom Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press 2002) ch. 1.


See especially W. H. WalshAn Introduction to the Philosophy of History (New York: Longmans, Green & Co.1951); William H. Dray Laws and Explanation in History (Oxford 1957); William H. Dray Philosophy of History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall 1964); W. B. Gallie Philosophy and the Historical Understanding (London: Chatto and Windus 1964).


See e.g. Morton White‘The Logic of Historical Narration’ in Philosophy and History: A Symposiumed. Sidney Hook (New York: New York University Press1963) 3–31which opens the collection edited by Sidney Hook Philosophy and History: A Symposium (New York: New York University Press 1963) in which there are other essays discussing White’s views. White’s essay was revised and expanded into ch. 6 of Morton White Foundations of Historical Knowledge (New York 1965).


See Peter Lamarque‘Analytic Aesthetics’ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophyed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Oxford University Press2013) 770–794 and Jonathan Wolff ‘Analytic Political Philosophy’ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy ed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013) 795–822 for an account of the development of analytic aesthetics and analytic political philosophy respectively.


Arthur DantoNarration and Knowledge: With a new introduction by Lydia Goehr and a new conclusion by Frank Ankersmit (New York: Columbia Univ. Press2007) p. 11.


DantoNarration and Knowledge p. 143.


Ibid. p. 152.


Ibid. p. 336.


Ibid. p. 341.


Ibid. p. 1.


Ibid. pp. 1 9.


Ibid. p. 15.


Ibid. p. 16.


Ibid. p. 341.

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