, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 483–494 | Cite as

Reflexivity, Relativism, Microhistory: Three Desiderata for Historical Epistemologies



This paper tries to motivate three desiderata for historical epistemologies: (a) that they should be reflective about the pedigree of their conceptual apparatus; (b) that they must face up to the potentially relativistic consequences of their historicism; and (c) that they must not forget the hard-won lessons of microhistory (i.e. historical events must be explained causally; historical events must not be artificially divided into internal/intellectual and external/social “factors” or “levels”; and constructed series of homogenous events must not be treated as quasi-organisms). Ian Hacking’s work on styles of reasoning and Lorraine Daston’s and Peter Galison’s investigation into epistemic virtues are used to identify the costs of neglecting these desiderata.


Relativism Point Epistemic Virtue Epistemic Relativism Dialectical Materialism Innate Capacity 



I am indebted to Uljana Feest and Thomas Sturm for organising the conference that provided me with the challenge to write this paper. For comments, questions and suggestions I am grateful to Raine Daston, Sarah Gore-Cortes, Ian Hacking, Jeff Kochan, Simon Schaffer, Catherine Wilson, and two anonymous referees.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ViennaWienAustria

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