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The German Historicist Tradition$
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Frederick C. Beiser

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691555.001.0001

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Introduction: The Concept and Context of Historicism

Introduction: The Concept and Context of Historicism

(p.1) Introduction: The Concept and Context of Historicism
The German Historicist Tradition

Frederick C. Beiser

Oxford University Press

The introduction attempts to define the concept of historicism as used in the study, and to distinguish it from other uses of the term. It uses the term in two senses: one is methodological, where “historicism” means an investigation into the possibility of history as a science; the other is metaphysical, where “historicism” means the attempt to historicize everything in the human world, i.e., to see it as product of a specific time and place and therefore subject to historical change. It rejects the common paradigm of historicism as a rejection of naturalistic explanation in the human sciences, because some of the early fathers of historicism (Chladenius, Möser and Herder) were devoted to a naturalistic program of in history. Two sections place the problem of historical knowledge in its historical context and attempts to explain how and why historicism was intellectually so revolutionary and why history finally was seen as a legitimate form of scientific enquiry. A final section considers the famous crisis of historicism.

Keywords:   historicism, intellectual revolution, naturalism, crisis of historicism

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