Relativism in German Idealism, Historicism and Neo-Kantianism

In Martin Kusch (ed.), Routledge Handbook on Relativism. London: Routladge (forthcoming)
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This chapter traces the development of relativist ideas in nineteenth-century debates about history and historical knowledge. It distinguishes between two contexts in which these ideas first emerged. First, the early-to-mid nineteenth-century encounter between speculative German idealism and professional historiography. Second, the late nineteenth-century debate between hermeneutic philosophy and orthodox Neo-Kantianism. The paper summarizes key differences between these two contexts: in the former, historical ontology and historical methodology formed a unity, in the latter, they came apart. As a result, the idea of universal history became increasingly problematic. In light of these differences, the paper seeks to (partially) explain why it was only towards the late-nineteenth century that historical relativism became an explicit concern.
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