Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2013/2014
discipline Philosophy
Associate Professor at the Department of History of Science and Ideas in the University of Oulu

Research project

Postnarrativist philosophy of historiography


The book project “Postnarrativist philosophy of historiography” is based on two central assumptions. One is that the narrativist philosophy of historiography has contributed to our understanding of historiography. The other is that in terms of historiographical evaluation it has nevertheless left the field in limbo. My project aims to spell out and take on board the tenable contributions but also indicate the ways in which we have to go beyond narrativism.

What are the contributions of narrativism? The central contributions can be seen through the transition from the 1960s analytic philosophy of history to the narrativist philosophy of historiography. The focus was shifted from isolated claims on the past to the complete works of history. The second contribution is closely related to this change of focus. That is the suggestion that the most important scholarly product of historiography is a narrative or a historical thesis on the past that the complete work of history articulates. The third and much more controversial contribution of narrativism is the idea that historiography is fundamentally a constructivist and ‘colligatory’ endeavour, whose narratives or theses are creative additions of meaning or significance to our understanding of the past, without correspondence in the past itself.

What are the problems of narrativism that need to be overcome? First, my research questions whether historiography is primarily a literary practice and suggests that we should conceive it as a rational and argumentative undertaking before anything else. The second problem is the idea that narratives or historical theses are analytic and holistic units that cannot be decomposed into smaller constituent parts .This is reasonable, if historical theses are understood as forming painting-like panoramas or points of views on the past, as narrativists see it. However, if we perceive them, as I suggest, as arguments in the socially situated debates the state of affairs changes. Then, first, historical theses are by definition subjects for rational evaluation. Second, they are seen as forming complex informal chains of reasoning, which can be decomposed into a conclusion or conclusions and the steps of reasoning that led to that conclusion. This is the approach through which my research aims to show how rational and cognitive evaluation of historical theses is possible, although we wouldn’t take historical theses as true in the correspondence sense. The central goal is thus to outline what kind of historical argument, in what kind of social situation, is rationally compelling.



Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen is currently Associate Professor at the Department of History of Science and Ideas in the University of Oulu. He was Lecturer in Philosophy in the University of Hull in 2012-2013.

He studied contemporary history and philosophy at the University of Turku, Finland, and Philosophy at the New School University, New York. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.


His areas of expertise are Philosophy of Science, Thomas Kuhn, Philosophy of History and Historiography, Historiography of Science and Science Studies.


Selected publications


'Representationalism and non-representationalism in historiography’, Journal of the Philosophy of History, vol. 7, 2013. pp. 453-479.

'The missing narrativist turn in historiography of science’, History and Theory, vol. 51, 2012, pp. 340-363.

'I am knowledge. Get me out here! On localism and the universality of science’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 42, 2011, pp. 590-601.


'Demystification of early Latour’, Foundations of the Formal Sciences VII. Bringing together Philosophy and Sociology of Science, vol. 32, 2011, pp. 161-185.


'Kuhn on essentialism and the causal theory of reference’, Philosophy of Science, vol. 77, 2010, pp. 544-564.


'Making sense of conceptual change’, History and Theory, vol. 47, 2008, pp. 351-372.


Meaning Changes. A Study Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy, VDM Verlag Dr Müller, Saarbrücken, 2008.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Social Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Art History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Literature