Replies To Comments On "Images Of History" By Warren Breckman, Robert R. Clewis, And Espen Hammer

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History And Theory


In my replies to the perceptive and cogent observations and questions about my book offered by Warren Breckman, Robert Clewis, and Espen Hammer, I emphasize the thought that we must learn to live with standing tensions between settled institutions and improvisatory courses of action. In reply to Breckman, I suggest that Münchhausen's Trilemma is best regarded as a practical problem that should be addressed in different ways in different contexts rather than as an epistemological puzzle to be solved, and I embrace his rejection of methodological individualism. Although our evolved biology sets some limits and some possibilities, our practical lives are also relatively autonomous from biological determination. In reply to Robert Clewis, I emphasize that Kant has a picture of divine noumenal causation, dimly discernible in history and operating principally through human beings as agents, and I suggest, with Kant, that we may well be unable to explain in any satisfactory way the nature of this noumenal causation. In reply to Espen Hammer's worries about whether a dialogue between Kant and Benjamin is really possible without doing violence to one side or the other, I stress that I am not myself trying to develop a single consistent theory of the meaning of history. Instead, I am “working through” my own perplexity at the constitutive tensions that shape human life, including my own, and trying to see those tensions more clearly.