The Positivist Fallacy



The Positivist Fallacy is a logical error, sometimes made by historians, when they confuse “what happened” with “that for which we have evidence”.

For example, many books about the Persian Wars end after an account of the battle of Mycale or Plataea. These are the last events mentioned by Herodotus and are the last events about which we know some details. But the war continued: we know that a Greek navy attacked Cyprus, we know that the Spartans invaded Thessaly, we know that a coalition army was active in the Bosphorus, and we know that the Persian fortress at Eïon was captured. It was only then, when the Persians were expelled from Europe, that hostilities ceased. But this stage of the war is poorly documented – and therefore, ignored. Yet, a historian can not make his account dependent on the randomness of the tradition.

Read more about the positivist fallacy here.

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