Historicism is a theory of philosophy that gives importance to space and time. This approach asserts that there is value in considering the time period or geographic location or local culture when studying and conducting philosophy. A historical period is not just a collection of events on a timeline. A geographic location is more than spatial awareness. Culture is not just additional detail. Historicism posits that there is significant value in contextual interpretation, that there is a causal relationship between the answer and the context of the question at hand. This stands in contrast to theories whose approach emphasizes universality, fundamental principles, and indisputable “truths.”
Karl Popper states that historicism is “an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their primary aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the ‘rhythms’ or the ‘patterns,’ the ‘laws’ or the ‘trends’ that underlie the evolution of history.” I disagree with this interpretation. I can only assume that he draws this connection between historicism and the social sciences due to how he perceives historicism’s value to be a predictive tool, but historicism is not necessarily a framework for historical prediction. It is a framework of interpretation. Historicism gives the social sciences a necessary flexibility to our methodological approaches because it acknowledges that we, as creatures of existence, are inexorably tied to our respective circumstances, that the amount of which we are a product of our circumstances is immeasurable, and that there exist unknowns for which we cannot preemptively account for. Historicism does not say that because X1 existed in the context of Y1, then X2 will also exist in the context of Y2; instead, it asks us to consider that because X1 existed in the context of Y1, we should be aware of the possibility that X2 will occur as a result of the presence of Y2.