Narrative Knowing

Narrative Knowing
A Series of Seminars: HIST 344 & PHIL 344
27 October – 5 December 2014 (except week of Thanksgiving)
Tuesday and Thursday, 5:15-6:05 pm
M. Norton Wise, Guest
Distinguished Professor
Department of History &
Institute for Society and Genetics
Philosophers and historians have been debating the status of narrative explanation
for well over 50 years. Until quite recently, a supposed dichotomy between natural
science and history has shaped the discussion. Beginning from the origins, history,
and limitations of the dichotomy, the seminar will explore how claims for narrative
understanding and explanation have come to occupy an increasingly important role
in the natural sciences as well as the social sciences.
This series of seminars will meet twice per week for one hour. Although conceived
especially for historians and philosophers of science, everyone interested in the
question of whether and how historical narratives explain is very welcome. As the
basis for discussion, there will be one or at most two readings for each meeting. All
readings will be posted on the course website, except for T. S. Kuhn’s Structure of
Scientific Revolutions (preferably the 2012 edition with Introduction by Ian
Hacking). Here is a preliminary list of basic readings for the ten sessions.
1. Carl G. Hempel, “The Function of General Laws in History,” Journal of Philosophy,
(1942), 35-48.
2. Louis Mink, “The Autonomy of Historical Understanding,” History and Theory, 5
(1966), 24-47.
3. Thomas Kuhn, “The Relations between the History and the Philosophy of Science,”
in The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago:
U. Chicago Pr., 1977), 3-20. Plus selections from The Structure of Scientific
4. Paul Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” Critical Inquiry, 7 (1980), 169-190.
5. Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality,” 7 (1980), 527.
6. Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (1972), Daedalus,
134 (2005), 56-86.
7. Paul Roth, “How Narratives Explain,” Social Research, 56 (1989), 449-478.
8. Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm” (originally, in 1979, “a
Scientific Paradigm”), reprint in John & Anne C. Tedeschi, Clues, Myths, and the
Historical Method (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Pr., 1986), 96-125, notes, 200-214.
Giovanni Levi, “On Microhistory” (1992), in Peter Burke, New Perspectives on
Historical Writing, 2nd ed. (University Park: Penn. State U. Pr., 2001), 97-119.
9. Mary S. Morgan, “The Curious Case of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Model Situation?
Exemplary Narrative?,” in A. N. H. Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck, & M. N. Wise, Science
Without Laws: Model Systems, Cases, Exemplary Narratives (Durham: Duke U. Pr.,
2007), 157–185.
John Beatty, “The Historicity of Nature? Everything That Is Might Have Been
Different?,” in R. E. Auxier & L. E. Hahn (Eds.), The Philosophy of Marjorie Greene
(Chicago: Open Court, 2002), 397-416.
10. M. Norton Wise, “Science as (Historical) Narrative,” Erkenntnis, 75 (2011), 349376.