Editorial: Too many books to read? Then read this.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
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  • 1 Editor-in-Chief

Philosophers of history write many interesting books. This could be said to be the message of this issue. For a while, we have accumulated reviews and the time has come to publish more of them together. Since 2017, Journal of the Philosophy of History has accepted texts about books under two categories: review article and book review. A text of the latter kind is typically relatively short, four or five pages long, and focuses on the content of the book under review in order to introduce it to the readers. A review article is normally more than ten pages long, in which a critic explores the themes discussed in the book more widely and further develops those herself. Of course, a review article enables a closer study of the content too.

In the first review article of this issue, Paul A. Roth discusses Kalle Pihlainen’s collection of essays entitled The Work of History, which were published over an extended period. In this book with Hayden White’s preface, Pihlainen emphasises that the historical nature of history must be acknowledged more clearly than it has been, and that it is only people, not any human-independent force or factor, who make meaning in history. Robert Doran assesses Martin Jay’s book Reason after Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory. This book was in the making an even longer time: some forty years. Jay’s book both provides a history of reason from the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century and a defence of an idea of reason after more than one hundred years of anti-rationalist thought. Jonathan Gorman analyses a collection of essays entitled Towards a Revival of Analytical Philosophy of History that deals with Paul Roth’s philosophy and specifically the latter’s call for a revival of analytic philosophy of history. Gorman suggests that although explanation was then, and is now for Roth, a central notion of analysis, the idea of the compositionality of meaning is still more important. Further, Juan L. Fernández reviews Jörn Rüsen’s Historik, which was just recently translated into English as Evidence and Meaning. Rüsen’s book introduces German historicism to an English-speaking audience and his “synthetic historicism” may even allow for a “compromise” between German historicist and Anglo-Saxon generalist and scientistic traditions in historiography.

This issue also contains three book reviews. David Černín reviews Leon J. Goldstein’s Conceptual Tension: Essays on Kinship, Politics, and Individualism, which attempts to provide a comprehensive account of Goldstein’s thinking. Naturally, Goldstein’s essays are old, but the book contains four as yet unpublished and unfinished essays. An introduction by David Schulz also contributes towards the main rationale of the book. Alexandre Leskanich reviews Martin L. Davies’s How History Works: A Reconstitution of a Human Science. Davies studies history as an existential problem, considering how the world around us is historicised. Interestingly, the world that we are leaving behind us as the past also constantly affects us. Finally, Adrian van Veldhuize reviews Jeffrey Andrew Barash’s Collective Memory and the Historical Past. Barash’s book analyses the concept of collective memory and remembrance, providing a philosophical answer to the question of what it means to “collectively remember.”

There are so many texts about recently published books that Issue 14/1 (2020) is almost like a special Winter book issue. However, the current issue contains three research articles too. Firstly, James Alexander writes about reaction in politics. He argues that it should not be equated with conservatism, although it should be seen as an element of it. Reaction means reacting against the idea that order should be established only on enlightened principles. Secondly, Torbjörn Gustafsson Chorell analyses Hayden White’s and Ethan Kleinberg’s thinking in light of the incomplete secularization thesis, which says that our thinking has not dispensed with religious content. Chorell argues that not even Kleinberg’s deconstructive approach manages to achieve the full secularization of history but instead opens up a space for post-religious historiography with religious themes. Thirdly, Thomas Uebel’s paper focuses on the intellectual history of a foundational figure in modern philosophy of history: Arthur Danto. Studying Danto’s thinking prior to the discovery of narrative sentences, such as a forgoten paper from 1958 and his 1952 PhD dissertation, Uebel shows that during these years, Danto made a reasoned retreat from historical idealism rather than journeyed from the positivist philosophy of science to the aesthetics of postmodernism.

Hopefully this issue leads some of you further still, in perusing some of the books and texts mentioned in the articles of this issue. I wish you an enjoyable reading time!

Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen

Editor-in-Chief

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