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OBJECTIVITY IN HISTORY

OBJECTIVITY IN HISTORY

By MARK BEVIR

Department of Politics. Newcastle University

Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU . U.K.

ABSTRACT

Many philosophers have rejected the possibility of objective historical

knowledge on the grounds that there is no given past against which to judge rival

interpretations. There reasons for doing so are valid. But this does not demonstrate

that we rnust give up the concept of historical objectivity as such. The purpose of this

paper is to de6ne a concept of objectivity based on criteria of comparison, not on a

given past. Objective interpretations are those which best mee! rational criteria of

accuracy, cornprehensiveness, consistency, progressiveness, fruitfulness, and openness.

Finally, the nature of our being in the world is shown to give us a good reason to

regard such objective interpretations as moving towards a regulative ideal of truth.