Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
2016 Book Awards
Browse award-winning titles. See all 2016 winners
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Top Customer Reviews
Some of the fallacies I already knew from philosophy, such as the pathetic fallacy, the fallacy of composition, the post hoc fallacy, and so on, which are already well known. But then there are plenty of others with more abstruse names, such as the "the fallacy of the hypostatized proof." My one complaint enters here, since Fischer would have benefited from a knowledge of logic and philosophy, since he sometimes gives names to fallacies that are well known in logic and philosophy by a different name.
But overall, this is one of the best books on the methods and philosophy of history I've read, and it should probably be required reading for every student of history and professional historian alike.
Yes, as one reviewer says, Fischer rants a bit, but amusingly and with dead-on quotations from his victims. One will think twice about the errors Fischer cites, if for no other reason than to avoid Fischer's next edition.
Fischer is quite even handed. The first felon he cites was a professor of mine -- and Fischer's -- as an undergraduate. A more generous critic and historian -- and human being -- one won't find. But there he is.
I cannot think of a better gift for anyone who takes persuasive prose seriously. No writer should be without it.
Fischer reveals his ultimate goal in his conclusion. He discusses the goals of history and makes an eloquent apology for the historian. He astutely notes that social scientists have never found a justification for history, making illogical arguments to justify their interest in the past. Calling history "fun," saying that history should be studied because it "is there," and stating "everyone needs to know facts" are three poor reasons for a defense of history. Likewise, claiming history provides a creative outlet and that it could prove useful for the future are spurious speculations, at best.
Fischer's apology of history explains that as history becomes more logical, it becomes more useful to society. History can clarify the contexts of contemporary social problems and can help with forecasting, allowing us to discuss future issues before they arrive. History offers theoretical knowledge, helping social scientists understand past conditions that best brought, say, stability and peace.Read more ›
The study of history carries with it a load of fascinating philosophical and epistemological questions. Beyond such generalities such as "what is the nature of truth?", historians have to decide which facts are relevant to the case they are studying, what are causes in history, and how to make a narrative, a book or a mathematical model, that will capture something significant of the world.
All of these are interesting questions, but except peripherally, David Hackett Fischer doesn't discuss them. Rather, Fischer tries to track down specific fallacies that historians commit, and spell them out, apparently in order to help other scholars avoid them.
"Historians' Fallacies" is basically a collection and a catalogue of errors, some well known ones, such as "the fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc" (following, therefore caused by, p. 166) or "the pathetic fallacy" (ascribing animate behavior to inanimate objects, pp. 190-193) and some as obscure as "the fallacy of indiscriminate pluralism" (enumerating multiple causes without discrimination, pp. 175-177).
There are at least three commendable aspects to Fischer's study. First, Fischer is a fine writer, with remarkable turns of phrases: "Sir Lewis [Namier] was no enemy of chosenness in either facts or people. He was, indeed, a committed Zionist in both respects." (p. 69).
Another is Fischer's willingness to name names. Too many critics prefer uses such as "many writers", etc, but although Fischer does occasionally shies away (such as in his discussion of ad hominem attacks pp.290-293), he's generally willing to openly criticize some leading historians and intellectuals. Nor does Fischer satisfy himself with attacking such usual suspects as Robert Fogel, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fischer's irreverent look at the historical profession is still almost as fresh as when it was published nearly a half-century ago. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Stephen L. Gordy
Historians’ writings are prone to fallacious reasoning! Even the best historians! More kinds of fallacies than you can dream of! Read morePublished 2 months ago by T. Reid
Fischer is great and has identified several fallacies I commit myself all the time. The best part is that his own prose is full of exactly the kinds of fallacies he deplores.Published 7 months ago by Adam D Zientek
Well worth reading again to maintain a strong discipline in the history field.Published 21 months ago by Thomas D. Mackie
Didn't realize how many things could go wrong about writing history. Amazing, and Dr. Fischer does an excellent job in covering the field. Tough going though.Published on March 12, 2013 by Robert C. Kelly
A must read, even for non-historians. Each time I (a scientist, not a historian) read Historians' Fallacies I'm reminded of ways I can think more clearly and research more... Read morePublished on July 27, 2012 by Amazon Customer