General Explanation in History

The covering-law model of historical explanation works only for explanation of particulars by particulars, or narrative questions and person and action questions. Wisdom suggests three other explanatory theories that may be integral to historical explanation. What are called Challengeable-cover laws, Function-type laws, and Theoretical-type explanations are introduced and their ranges with respect to covering laws described. The first type are non-trivial generalizations the historian forms where existing covering laws are irrelevant or insufficient, for isolated aspects of their subject matter. Function-type explanatory laws are systemic and answer questions basic in the social sciences where they point beyond particulars to general functions of systems. Theory-type explanations, like Mary Douglas' explanation of taboos, involve theoretical entities or unobservables and operate analogously to theoretical explanations in the natural sciences. Historians often condense generalizations into concepts and treat them as particulars. History thus becomes generality-impregnated narrative.