A Loosely Knit Network: Philosophy of History After Hayden White

Abstract Does the death of Hayden White mark the end of an era in philosophy of history? Although White’s personal presence is sorely missed, White’s work is unlikely soon to lose its prominent position in philosophy of history. This is because no other author occupies a position in the field that is remotely as central as White’s. His oeuvre serves as a shared reference point for scholars working on issues ranging from explanation and representation to deconstruction and presence. From whatever school or persuasion they are, philosophers of history relate to White’s work, either by building upon it or by dissociating themselves from it. In explaining this unique position of White’s work, this essay reflects as much on the field called philosophy of history as on White’s interventions in it. It argues that philosophy of history is not a discipline in a recognizable sense of the word, but a loosely knit network of scholars working on different “questions about history.” Only when this network status of the field is taken into account, it becomes possible to see why White’s work has such a central place in current philosophy of history.