Moral Judgements and Moral Realism in History

Boobbyer, P. (2002) Moral Judgements and Moral Realism in History. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 3 (2). pp. 83-112. ISSN 14690764. (The full text of this publication is not available from this repository)

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Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/714005478

Abstract

The issue of whether historians should make moral judgements is always controversial. In recent years, there has been a division between those who argue that the primary aim of historians should be to understand the past and that moral judgements should be avoided, and those who maintain that moral judgements are still in a certain sense appropriate. The overall thrust of this article is to argue that these two tendencies in reality coincide: understanding and judgement cannot be abstractly separated. The article also explores the related, but further point that many historians are moral realists: they believe that certain moral facts are natural facts independently of whether people believe them to be true or not. This moral realism is rooted in a variety of world-views, religious and secular. With particular reference to Nazism and Stalinism, and to such figures as Adolf Eichmann, Albert Speer, Nikolai Bukharin and Richard Nixon, this article argues that there is a widespread assumption among historians that the moral state of societies and individuals is a legitimate aspect of historical enquiry. Herbert Butterfield and Hannah Arendt are amongst the many scholars whose work is discussed. The article concludes by saying that history is in a certain sense a moral discipline in that it requires of historians a high level of self-knowledge and self-discipline, if they are to write good history.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Moral Judgements; Understanding; Moral Realism; Historical Enquiry
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: L.J. Brown
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2007 18:29
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2012 15:02
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/785 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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