I’ve known many people who are scandalized by Aristotle’s claim that history, because it is less universal, is less philosophical than poetry, and I suppose the scandal is common. I pick the word “scandal” carefully since something can be a scandal and yet be wholly desirable and attractive in itself. A scandal is simply an impediment we have to accepting something, and the impediment might very well arise from an error in interpretation or understanding, though not necessarily.
One way to approach Aristotle’s claim is to ask “what is the least philosophical of all things?” Here the answer is self-evident- on Aristotle’s account, the least philosophical is the least universal of all knowledge, which is the concrete experience of things given here and now. While this concrete experience is the least scientific or philosophical, it is simultaneously the principle of all science and philosophy and any knowledge whatsoever, and so the desire to expand our knowledge gives rise to the desire to extend the limited range of this experience. We overcome this limitation by making narrations which can present the experience outside of the limited setting in which it occurred. I stress the making because it draws out that the process is an art-the art of presenting an experience of something here and now outside of the limitations which are essential to its concrete existence. Our experience of the here and now is limited in two ways: by being in one place and not another; and by being in one time and not another. The first limitation is overcome by journalism, the second is overcome by history.
History is therefore less philosophical precisely by being more radical. So far as philosophy and science seek to get to the roots of things, history is very much like them, but it is like them by being ordered to the source from which they arise. History progresses and becomes more perfect to the extent that it distances itself from the sort of existence that philosophy considers. That being said, all science and philosophy seeks to attain to knowledge of things in their concretion. In this sense, history is a sort of artistic anticipation of the term of science and philosophy.