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Adrian Currie, Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist’s Guide to the Historical Sciences, Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2018, 376 pp., $35

  • Thomas BonninEmail author
Book Review

What is it like to build knowledge from traces? How do historical scientists manage to turn ‘rock, bone, and ruin’ into a rich knowledge about past climates, extinct mammals, and forgotten cultures? Drawing from case studies in contemporary scientific practice, Adrian Currie invites us on a monograph-long tour of the historical sciences. Rock, Bone, and Ruin weaves together considerations about the nature and use of historical evidence with more general epistemological debates about explanation, progress, and realism. The explicit aim is to foster optimism about historical scientists’ ability to deliver epistemic goods.

A defining trait of historical practice is the exploitation of traces left by past events. Currie astutely proposes the ‘ripple model’ to capture the nature of this type of evidence. This metaphor combines contrasting properties. The centrifugal temporal extension of ripples represents the increased quantity and variety of downstream effects of a past event. As time...

Notes

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre Emile Durkheim (UMR 5116), Faculté de SociologieUniversité de BordeauxBordeauxFrance

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