Acts, Events, and Stories. on the History of Danto's Compatibilist Narrativism

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The response given to C.G. Hempel's well-known challenge by Arthur Danto in his Analytical Philosophy of History of 1965 - that deductive-nomological and narrative explanations are logically compatible yet employ incommensurable schemata - is here investigated from a historical perspective. It is shown that the developmental trajectory that emerges from an analysis of Danto's previous writings - including not only a forgotten paper of 1958 but also his PhD dissertation of 1952 - contains distinctive step-changes with publications of 1953 and 1956 still prior to that of 1958-59 which enabled his subsequent discovery of narrative sentences. It is also argued that Danto's developmental trajectory runs contrary to that presumed by some prominent commentators. Analytical History of Philosophy was not the midpoint of his ascent from mainstream philosopher of science to high priest of postmodern aesthetics, but represents a reasoned retreat from his early historical idealism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-79
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of the Philosophy of History
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Arthur Danto
  • C.G. Hempel
  • historical idealism
  • narrative explanation
  • narrative sentences
  • R.G. Collingwood


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