Maurizio Ferrera

Historical explanation and counterfactual logic: revisiting Max Weber

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The article reconstructs and discusses the Weberian approach to the explanation of historical events, and in particular to counterfactual analysis. After broadly outlining the main coordinates of Weber’s neo-Kantian epistemology, the article focuses on Weber’s conception of science as a value sphere, on the aims and methods of explanation in the social and historical sciences and on the key concepts of possibility judgements and adequate causation. The central role played by counterfactuals is illustrated through the example of the battle of Marathon, which Weber himself saw as the starting point of a causal chain leading to the rise of Western rationalism. The article concludes by highlighting the pioneering role of Weber’s counterfactualism for the subsequent development of possible worlds theory and its use in the causal analysis of singular historical events


  • Historical Explanation
  • Social Causation
  • Counterfactuals
  • Possible Worlds
  • Max Weber


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