The End of Histories? Review Essay of Alexander Rosenberg’s How History Gets Things Wrong: the Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories

Journal of the Philosophy of History:1-9 (forthcoming)
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Alex Rosenberg’s latest book purports to establish that narrative history cannot have any epistemic value. Rosenberg argues not for the replacement of narrative history by something more science-like, but rather the end of histories understood as an account of human doings under a certain description. This review critiques three of his main arguments: 1) narrative history must root its explanations in folk psychology, 2) there are no beliefs nor desires guiding human action, and 3) historical narratives are morally and ethically pernicious. Rosenberg’s book reprises themes about action explanation he first rehearsed 40 years ago, albeit with neuroscience rather than sociobiology now “preempting” explanations that trade on folk psychological notions. Although Rosenberg’s argument strategy has not altered, the review develops a number of reasons as to why his approach now lacks any plausibility as a strategy for explaining histories, much less a successful one.

Author's Profile

Paul A. Roth
University of California, Santa Cruz


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