The Objectivity of Historical Knowledge: How We Can Know the Past

Author: Lee, Han
In order to secure the possibility of objective history, this book argues against all kinds of historical relativism. All such theories exist substantially on the basis of relativist epistemology. Relativist epistemology comprises such diverse theories as deconstruction, conceptual relativism, paradigm theory, post-modernism, traditional historicism, sociological relativism, pragmatism, and cultural relativism. It proves that the diversity of historical viewpoints are compatible with historical objectivity.


"Overall, Professor Lee has produced a substantial critical theory of history that develops in detail a number of Popper's often rudimentary and incomplete arguments on the topic. In so doing, Lee has thrown out many challenges to received wisdoms in the philosophy of history. ... By his systematic and thorough analysis of the problem of history, Han Goo Lee has performed a great service not only to the philosophy of history, but also for Popper scholarship.
Dr. Geoffrey Stokes,
RMIT University, Melbourne

"In an age when relativism and skepticism prevails, this [book] serves as an important bulwark for the idea of an objective history. This book offers many important arguments for understanding history as a science from the perspective of critical rationalism and traverses the fields of ontology, epistemology , and the methodology of historical science."
Dr. Nam-In Lee,
Seoul National University

Table of Contents



Introduction: A New Proposal for Justifying Historical Objectivity

Part I: Historical Anti-Realism: History is Story-Telling

1. Historical Realism and Historical Anti-Realism

2. Presentism: History is the Present on the Screen Called the Past

3. Pragmatism: History is Written from the Viewpoint of Utility

4. Narrativism: History is a Literary Genre

Part II: Historical Realism: History is the Reproduction of the Past

5. Objectivity is Compatible with Multiple Vewpoints

6. Realistic Narratives can Reproduce the Past

7. Critical Examination of the 'Linguistic Turn'

8. How Do We Establish the Objectivity of Historical Knowledge?

Part III: The Necessity of Incorporating Understanding and Explanation

9. The Historical World is a Cultural World

10. Opposing Approaches: Hermeneutical Understanding and Scientific Explanation

11. Rational Explanation Operates on Understanding

12. Supervenience Explains Both Social Structures and Macro-Historical Laws

Part IV: The Historical View Can be Formalized as a Scientific Research Program

13. Historical Writing without a Historical View is Blind ; Historical View without Objectivity is Empty

14. The Historical View Can be Formalized as a Scientific Research Program

15. Two Prototypes of Modern Historical Views: Universal Progressive vs. Individual Developmental

16. Types and Validity of Historical Views: They Should be Evaluated in Terms of Their Explanatory Power

Conclusion: The Wider the Horizon of Knowledge, the Greater the Possibility of Reproducing the Past