Objectivity in History

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Objectivity in History

Introduction

Objectivity as a philosophical theory of history prescribes that the understanding of the historical dialogue should be based on the comparative analysis of historical concepts and discourse. The subject of objectivity of history tends to disclose historical knowledge that has been acquired through methodological research procedures and with a presence of inviolable validity. While there seems to be immense controversy regarding the concept of “objectivity” of history, there is a general and unequivocal agreement that the understanding of the concept is intensely valuable in the understanding of History as a discipline. This paper shall elaborate on the value of this theory of history in the understanding of the discipline.

Objectivity as a philosophy of understanding history: how valuable is it?

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Several historical scholars subscribe to various philosophical dispositions regarding the understanding of the historical knowledge. The understanding of the concept of objectivity as a school of thought has sired interesting discourse regarding its implications in the understanding of History as a discipline. Whether these assertions are valid or not will not be the focus of this analysis,  the goal of this paper will rather be to underscore the significance of objectivity as a historical maxim.

Chronological value

Since the cardinal tenet of objectivism as a historical theory in the methodological analysis of the contemporary events in relation to the past, there seems to be a very valuable attachment that objectivity does to the chronological understanding of facts. Relating historical knowledge to the past events is critical in understanding these initial events. According to Kragh, in his work An introduction to the historiography of science, objectivity defines the conceptual understanding of events within a specific timeline. Kragh asserts that historians are obligated to attend to the past since the past historical issues are crucial in the determination of the current knowledge. As a matter of fact, the factual basis of establishing current historical knowledge is “benchmarked” by the “timelines of yesteryears” (Kragh, 1989).

History is hollow without the understanding of the chronology of historical knowledge. Most Hermeneutic theorists wh subscribe to objectivity claim that the form and content of History are best understood in the totality of the existential phenomena. In this context, this class of scholars aver that it is not only impossible to ignore the understanding of the past historical knowledge, but also irresponsible in the understanding of history.

Objectivity as an assertion of validity

Ignoring objectivity in the understanding of the historical knowledge, according to the subscribers of this school of thought, means that historical interpretation of history will be hugely mistaken. The value of objectivity in correcting misconceptions in history will be evident through the “comparison” tentacles of history. While addressing the past and relating them to the future, empiricists have conclusively admitted that there is a huge void filled.

Evolution of any historical knowledge is attributed to the validity of the knowledge. But then, to what extent can validity be achieved if not through the comparative analysis of the historical knowledge? Validation of historical knowledge, in theory, will be heavily reliant on the ability of the historical knowledge to corroborate the past events. It is thus evident that the basic tenet of objectivity that postulates “comparative analysis” is critical in the establishment of validity of the assertion of any historical knowledge.

It is admissible that there is a logical, yet progressive inference as to why the aspect of objectivity helps in building up the currently existing knowledge. This is in argument with Turner’s admission that the kinship between the past historical understandings cannot be divorced from the present discourse as well. Explaining the present, one entails focusing on the past. In relation to Darwinism, the proponents of this school of thought propose a question to the effect that Darwinism has been understood through the understanding of the past.

 “Objectivism and research”

The fundamental significance of this theory is based on the value that it contributes to research (both scholarly and otherwise). While the opponents of the theory admit that it is better to “bury the past with the knowledge of the present,” the subscribers to the “objectivism” school of thought dissent to that proposal (Gorman, 1974). They admit that the temptation to ignoree the methodological understanding of the history is “suicidal” in research. The value of exploration of the systematic development of knowledge cannot be gainsaid. According to the proponents of objectivism, the critics of objectivism fail to look at the fate of research while ignoring this new school and class of reasoning (Turner, 1995).

Objectivity of History: Thucydides' dispositional belief

A study of the works of Thucydides reveals that he was a staunch advocate of objectivism in the understanding of historical knowledge. His syllogism is pegged on the need to have a structured understanding of history based on empiricism. Thucydides' analysis of Peloponnesian war is based on objectivity as a tenet of historical pedagogy. He asserts that history is greatly intertwined with consequentialism as a philosophical interlude of history. Consequentialism insists that the advancement of the historical knowledge happens as a result of the past issues. The evolution of newer historical knowledge is entirely a consequence of the earlier events.

Thucydides' historical writings were based on the events that he had witnessed firsthand. In book one, the theorist asserts that the reasoning behind person’s necessity in understanding History is because, “men accept from each other, hearsay of former events” (Fornara, 1983). This is a corroboration of the basic precincts of objectivity as a philosophical model of understanding historical knowledge.

Fornara (1983) further affirms Thucydides’ thoughts on historical objectivity in his work The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome. The writer notes that the emphasis of Thucydides’ writing was based on judging the past. Ranke avers that, “History has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of the future ages” (Fornara, 1983, p. 197).

Conclusion

Despite the philosophical variance in understanding the concept of objectivism, Historians are still obligated with the mandate to advance the knowledge to other generations. As noted in this work, the value of objectivism as a school of thought is immense. Nevertheless, there is still a greater need to harness potent. This should be focused on the need to  further understanding of History despite the variance in understanding objectivism as a principle of History.

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