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In defence of story-telling

Currie, Adrian and Sterelny, Kim (2017) In defence of story-telling. [Preprint]

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Abstract

We argue that narratives are central to the success of historical reconstruction. Narrative explanation involves tracing causal trajectories across time. The construction of narrative, then, often involves postulating relatively speculative causal connections between comparatively well-established events. But speculation is not always idle or harmful: it also aids in overcoming local underdetermination by forming scaffolds from which new evidence becomes relevant. Moreover, as our understanding of the past’s causal milieus become richer, the constraints on narrative plausibility become increasingly strict: a narrative’s admissibility does not turn on mere logical consistency with background data. Finally, narrative explanation and explanation generated by simple, formal models complement one another. Where models often achieve isolation and precision at the cost of simplification and abstraction, narratives can track complex changes in a trajectory over time at the cost of simplicity and precision. In combination both allow us to understand and explain highly complex historical sequences.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Currie, Adrian
Sterelny, Kim
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Anthropology
Specific Sciences > Archaeology
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Adrian Currie
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 01:09
Last Modified: 25 May 2019 17:08
Item ID: 14627
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Anthropology
Specific Sciences > Archaeology
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Date: 2017
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14627

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