Truth and History

By Murray G. Murphey

Subjects: Historiography, Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791476246, 224 pages, July 2009
Hardcover : 9780791476239, 224 pages, December 2008

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Table of contents

1. Metaphysics and Epistemology
2. Evidence
3. Explanation
4. Theory
5. Narrative
6. Confirmation 1
7. Confirmation 2
Conclusion: The Logic of History

Addresses historical skepticism by presenting histories as testable theories of the past.


Setting aside barren issues such as the scientific status of history, Murray G. Murphey develops an empirical approach to historical study that can yield theories (interpretations) that are testable and confirmable. He examines the evidence on which historical theories are based, the types of explanations used, and particularly the way historical theories are tested. The book treats not only the actual process of historical research but also the philosophical problems involved in historical work. The treatment of causation is new, as is the discussion of epistemology. In his discussions, Murphey covers a wide range of sources and examples, including Frederick Jackson Turner, the Gospels, perspectives on the causes of the Great Depression, the Vinland Map, witchcraft, and material culture. The book is addressed to all who do history or write about it, and it will be a useful text for those who teach courses in historiography.

Murray G. Murphey is Professor Emeritus of American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books, including the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title C. I. Lewis: The Last Great Pragmatist, also published by SUNY Press, and (with Elizabeth Flower) A History of Philosophy in America.


"Truth and History is a fascinating argument for historiographic realism by one of the giants in the field of philosophy of historiography. This book is the culmination of almost half a century of major contributions to analytic philosophy of history by Murphey. I should recommend it to any philosopher who is interested in questions of realism and antirealism about the past and the nature of historiography (the writings of historians) and any historian interested in the philosophic foundations of their practice. Murphey is equally comfortable with contemporary philosophy and historical research. One of the main virtues of this philosophical book is that it is full of useful case studies and illustrations from historiography. This is philosophy that blooms by having roots deep in the ground of historiographic research. " — Aviezer Tucker, author of Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography

"Murphey's treatment of the problem of history and theory is excellent, and it will help sharpen perceptions of history and contribute to an understanding of the discipline that is appropriately complex. " — William Graebner, coeditor of The American Record: Images of the Nation's Past, Fifth Edition