Front Page Titles (by Subject) History: The Master 'Science' of Human Knowledge - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1
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History: The Master ‘Science’ of Human Knowledge - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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History: The Master ‘Science’ of Human Knowledge
“Jean d'Alembert and the Rehabilitation of History.” Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (October–December 1981): 643–664.
One of the crucial problems of Enlightenment thought was to rehabilitate the discredited status of history by establishing it as a justifiable form of knowledge among the valid sciences. Descartes' and Locke's skeptical doubt and empirical polemic against uncertain forms of knowledge had raised epistemological and moral puzzles which discredited the certainty and usefulness of traditional history. Jean d'Alembert (1717–1783), mathematician, scientist, and co-editor of Diderot's Encyclopédie restored history to a more dignified position in the world of learning than any it had occupied for over a century. Writing biographical obituaries (the éloges) in his capacity as the permanent secretary of the Académie Francaise, tracing the history of ideas in his Encyclopédie articles, and reflecting on the role of history as an epistemological master science in organizing a science of the human mind across time, d'Alembert formulated an intellectually scrupulous and balanced position, among the philosophes, on the scope and limits of a rehabilitated science of history.
D'Alembert synthesized Voltaire's skeptical approach to history (inherited from Locke's cautious empiricism), Fontenelle's view of history as the glorification of scientific progress, and Montesquieu's commonsensical conjectural history in defense of liberal values. By d'Alembert's rigorous standards of geometrical certitude, history fell short of the epistemological standards of the mathematical sciences, yet it played an essential political and moral role in liberating man from the tyranny of politics and superstition. The liberal philosophes, thought d'Alembert, needed to be reminded of the relative inexactitude and imperfection of history as a form of knowledge in their polemical uses of history against tyranny. In addition, d'Alembert was wary of treating probable knowledge (as in Condorcet's faith in a new mathematicized calculus of probabilities to be used in moral, social, or political decision-making). D'Alembert's critique of a social calculus of probabilities was motivated by the illiberal uses to which such a posturing pseudo-science must be put. Against other philosophes he dissented as to the superior social utility of making inoculation against smallpox compulsory. In such non-scientific social applications, which lacked mathematical certainty, he argued against compulsion and for the individual right of opinion and choice.
D'Alembert's ruminations on the intellectual status of history as an organizing, active force in establishing and recalling the interconnections among the sciences and human action in general led him finally to view history as a master science which surveyed and unified human knowledge.