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Publication Details

Philosophy of History between Prescribing and Describing

(Original title: Filozofia histórie medzi predpisovaním a opisovaním)
Filozofia, 73 (2018), 5, 356-365.
Type of work: Articles
Publication language: Slovak

In the course of their discussion of historical explanation, historical narrative etc. philosophers of history repeatedly touched upon the metaphilosophical questions concerning the nature and the role of the philosophy of history. Especially during the last decades, some of the critics of the prescriptive approach advocated the need to focus on describing the actual historical works and the genuine historical practice. According to the advocates of the descriptive or bottom-up approach, philosophers of history should prescribe historians neither what they ought to do nor how their works ought to look like. Philosophers should rather follow the views of historians and describe their outcomes. Although this return to historical works and historical practice looks appealing, I argue that one should not naively reduce philosophy of history to a mere description. It is important that philosophers of history follow the work of historians but they must anyway interpret what they find in historical discipline. Making use of examples from the writings of Paul Roth, I conclude that philosophy of history should try to fruitfully combine descriptive and prescriptive approaches.


Descriptive approach, Historical works, Metaphilosophy, Paul Roth, Philosophy of history, Prescriptive approach

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