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Mesocosmological Descriptions: An Essay in the Extensional Ontology of History

1 June 2006


The following paper advances a new argument for the thesis that scientific and historical knowledge are not different in type. This argument makes use of a formal ontology of history which dispenses with generality, laws and causality. It views the past social world as composed of Wittgenstein’s Tractarian objects: of events, ordered in ontological dependencies. Theories in history advance models of past reality which connect—in experiment—faces of past events in complexes. The events themselves are multi-grained so that we can connect together different faces of theirs without counterfeiting history. This means that, on the basis of the same set of facts, historians can produce different models of past events, in which different dependences are brought forth. A conception of this kind substantiates an objectivist account of the recurrent falsifications of the theories in history.

“All flesh is grass, and historians, poor things, wither more quickly than most.” —R. H. Tawney


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