Explanation in Art, History, and Science
Fall 2014

Rob Hopkins and Michael Strevens

5 Washington Place Room 202 (2nd floor)

Tuesday 1–3 PM

How does explanation or understanding in the social sciences, humanities (our central example will be history), and the arts differ from explanation in the natural sciences? The view that there is a deep divide between the two has been neologised in a series of famous terminological oppositions: the Naturwissenschaften versus Geisteswissenschaften, erkla╠łren versus verstehen, the nomothetic versus the idiographic, STEM versus the humanities. In this seminar we investigate the divide, using theories of explanation in natural science as a foil to think in particular about explanation in history and aesthetics.

Topics will include: the idea of understanding something in all its individuality, rather than by subsuming it under generalizations; narrative explanation; the availability and theoretical utility (or otherwise) of general principles of taste, or laws of history; the role of reason in critical discussion; the relative importance of experience, imagination and feeling in devising and assessing historical and artistic explanations; and the role (or otherwise) of concepts in aesthetic engagement.

List of topics and readings. User name and password available to seminar attendees on request.

Info sheet (PDF)