Narrative

The Research Areas below are mostly historical:

the aim is both to provide a causal explanation (not a mere chronicle) for each particular epochal event and to do so in ways that help us understand the general phenomenon that the event exemplifies.

For example, the aim is to understand the colonisation of Sahul in ways that both help us see what is unique about this event, but also its similarities with other human expansions into novel habitats. Such projects of historical reconstruction pose unique methodological challenges, partly because historical processes are data destroying and partly because these events are unique, rather than simple instances of general processes still in operation. No solution is perfect, but the best approximation is the construction of an integrated and detailed causal narrative. Detail and integration impose empirical constraints: detail, because there are many places in which narrative intersects with the surviving data; integration, because elements of the narrative are not free parameters, adjustable at will in order to fit the record as it is known. The construction of such integrated causal narratives is essentially interdisciplinary: the more independent evidence streams brought to bear, the stronger the empirical constraints on the narrative.ross space and time.

Research theme lead: Kim Sterelny

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