The Centre for the Philosophy of Historiography

The Centre for the Philosophy of Historiography is dedicated to the philosophical meta-disciplinary study of historiography, the representation of the past, and the historical sciences that generate knowledge of the past.

The philosophy of historiography inquires how historians, institutional historiography, and the historical sciences such as Cosmology, Natural History, Evolutionary Biology, Philology, Geology and Archaeology gain knowledge of the past. Does knowledge of the past depend on particular relations between history-the past and historiography such as transmission of information, causation, or the preservation of traces? Or is historiography independent to a large extent of history and the evidence it generated, but reflects other factors or biases? Historiography may or may not go beyond inferences from the evidence or traces of the past by structuring information from the past in narrative forms, and adding value-laden judgements. Historians assume evidence and information theories that authenticate it to make probable inferences about history-the past. The philosophy of historiography inquires how?

The philosophy of historiography examines the ontology of historiography. Is it realist, or can historiography have an anti-realist constructivist interpretation while history is still realistic in some sense? Is historiography a probable interpretation of the evidence, or a coherent fiction that is as much about itself as it is about history?

The philosophy of historiography and the historical sciences is still very much a work in progress. Much theoretical and conceptual work is required not only to try and answer the basic problems of the field, but also to formulate them. There are basic problems concerning the nature of the knowledge that historiography provides: evidence, inference, confirmation, theories and facts. Classical problems include elucidating the natures of historiographic explanation, causation, colligation, and understanding, as well as objectivity. The relations between historiography and the human, social, and natural sciences is still debatable. The aesthetics and ethics of historiography can be further developed. Sub-fields of historiography like social or cultural historiography may raise specific philosophical issues, as do historical sciences like phylogeny, archaeology, comparative historical linguistics, and cosmology. The methodologies of the philosophy of historiography and the historical sciences need to be developed along with the elucidation of its problems. For example, it may be fruitful to follow the successful research programs in the historiography, sociology and philosophy of science, use the history of historiography and the historical sciences to test philosophical theories of historiography and the historical sciences.

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Updated: 26. 09. 2023