Organon F

Volume 26, August 2019, Issue 4, Pages 635–659

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

Historical Antirealism and the Past as a Fictional Model

David Černín 


This paper focuses on the discipline of history, its methods, subject, and output. A brief overview of contemporary analytic philosophy of history is provided, followed by critical discussion of historical realism. It is argued that the insistence on the idea that historians inquire into the real past and that they refer to the actual past entities, events, or agents is widely open to sceptical objections. The concept of an abstract historical chronicle of past events which are explained or retold by historians is identified as misleading. The idea of historical antirealism is then introduced. It is argued that in the centre of historian’s attention are present phenomena that are identified as historical evidence and require historical explanation. Historical explanation consists of constituting an historical past—a fictional model that accounts for present data. The identification process of historical evidence and the discursive nature of historical enterprise are analysed and accompanied by several concrete examples. According to historical antirealism, historians are not interested in the real past, but in the present empirical data. In their pursuit of historical knowledge, they produce fictional models—an historical past. Lastly, several common caveats against historical antirealism are addressed. The historical antirealism is presented as a viable fictionalist account of the historical inquiry that is capable of avoiding sceptical attacks on historical method and it is argued that antirealism allows history to retain its worth as a distinctive kind of scientific discipline.


Analytic philosophy of history; antirealism; evidence; explanation; Goldstein; history; model.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


David Černín


University of Ostrava


FF OU – The Centre for Research in Medieval Society and Culture (VIVARIUM); Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, University of Ostrava, Reální 5, 701 03 Ostrava, Czech Republic


About this article


15 June 2018


28 January 2019

Published online

18 March 2019


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Černín, D. (2019). Historical Antirealism and the Past as a Fictional Model. Organon F26(4), 635–659.


Černín, David. 2019. "Historical Antirealism and the Past as a Fictional Model." Organon F 26 (4): 635–659.


Černín, D. (2019). Historical Antirealism and the Past as a Fictional Model. Organon F, 26(4), pp. 635–659.

Copyright information

© David Černín

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