Testing Times: Confirmation in the Historical Sciences

Dissertation, Australian National University (2008)
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In this thesis, I argue that a good historical science will have the following characteristics: Firstly, it will seek to construct causal histories of the past. Secondly, the construction of these causal histories will utilise well-tested regularities of science. Additionally, well-tested regularities will secure the link between observations of physical traces and the causal events of interest. However, the historical sciences cannot use these regularities in a straightforward manner. The regularities must accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the past, and the degradation of evidence over time. Through an examination of how the historical sciences work in practice, I show how they can confirm these unique causal histories, and the limits to their confirmatory strategies.
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