The Historians' Paradox brings together accounts of actual historical events, anecdotes about historians, insights from philosophers of history, and the personal experience of a long time scholar and teacher.
Author: Peter Charles Hoffer
Publisher: NYU Press
"How do we know what happened in the past? We cannot go back, and no amount of historical data can enable us to understand with absolute certainty what life was like then. It is easy to demolish the very idea of historical knowing, but it is impossible to demolish the importance of historical knowing. In an age of cable television pundits and anonymous bloggers dueling over history, the value of owning history increases at the same time as our confidence in history as a way of knowing crumbles. Historical knowledge thus presents a paradox - the more it is required, the less reliable it has become. To reconcile this paradox - that history is impossible but necessary - Peter Charles Hoffer proposes a practical, workable philosophy of history for our times, one that is robust and realistic, and that speaks to anyone who reads, writes and teaches history. The philosophy of history that Hoffer supports in The Historians' Paradox is driven by a continual and careful search for the authentic, but without confining the real to a finite or closed set of facts. Hoffer urges us to think and live with a keen awareness that history is everywhere, to accept the impossibility of measuring its reliability, but to never approach it unquestioningly. Covering a sweeping range of philosophies (from ancient history to game theory), methodological approaches to writing history, and the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies of argument, Hoffer constructs a philosophy of history that is reasonable, free of fallacy, and supported by appropriate evidence that is itself tenable. The Historians' Paradox brings together accounts of actual historical events, anecdotes about historians, insights from philosophers of history, and the personal experience of a long time scholar and teacher. Throughout, Hoffer liberally spices the mixture with humor to create a philosophy of history for our times."--publisher.