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Old 05-13-2011, 02:48 PM   #1
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Can history be objective?

I think history cant be objective for two reasons, first of all the subject of study is a subjective choice and second the sources chosen to study the subject are also going to be subjective so the claim that there is an "objective" history is pure bull****.

I wonder what you guys think?
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Old 05-13-2011, 10:28 PM   #2
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Re: Can history be objective?

Does objective = ideologically neutral

or does it mean

Engaging with scholarship in the field and sources in a way that shows extensive consideration of the important issues in the specific piece of work you are producing.
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Old 05-14-2011, 02:10 AM   #3
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Re: Can history be objective?

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Originally Posted by chucky View Post
Does objective = ideologically neutral

or does it mean

Engaging with scholarship in the field and sources in a way that shows extensive consideration of the important issues in the specific piece of work you are producing.
This, pretty much.

If it's the former, obviously not, as History is a human endeavor dealing with interpreting events and their causes and effects on other humans.

If it's the latter, yes, at least to some extent. Good history always considers multiple angles and factors surrounding events.
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Old 05-14-2011, 06:52 AM   #4
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Re: Can history be objective?

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Originally Posted by valenzuela View Post
I think history cant be objective for two reasons, first of all the subject of study is a subjective choice and second the sources chosen to study the subject are also going to be subjective so the claim that there is an "objective" history is pure bull****.

I wonder what you guys think?
The first argument applies to all scientific fields and is a complete non-issue.

The second merely reflects that historical claims have a lot of uncertainty attached to them, more so than claims in other fields of inquiry. Historians simply don't have the data to support their claims as well as empirical scientists can, which means that there's a lot more room for interpretation. As long as the methodology applied to what limited data they have conforms to the logic of evidence, however, history is our best gues wrt things that happened and there's nothing subjective about it that does't also affect other fields.

I think the tentative nature of historical knowledge should be stressed, though.
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Old 05-17-2011, 02:50 AM   #5
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Re: Can history be objective?

Completely objectivity is kind of impossible if your dealing with human thought's, as they themselves contradict the idea of ''objectivity''.

However, being neutral as in showing both sides of arguments, yes it's very possible. I consider the best history where it shows both sides, then the historian gives his opinion after the fact - he makes it clear that it is opinion - but it's fun to see how an expert see's the situation.
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Old 05-17-2011, 03:01 AM   #6
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Re: Can history be objective?

I can get by in a few languages and in every single one of them I know except English their word for "history" implies that it is "just a story". Maybe we should do that too. It would save a whole bunch of confusion.

No matter how objective you try to be, our views are stained by personal and cultural opinion. History is written by the winners. It is always from that perspective.
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Old 05-17-2011, 09:33 PM   #7
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Re: Can history be objective?

I think elements can to a degree of certainty. If a bunch of pots get excavated in an area which can be analyzed to say they came from 'x' period we could say pottery began to develop in that area around that time. That can then be balanced with other factors like, when did humans first arrive in the area, and what is the average time for settled humans to develop pottery, and come to a pretty good guess.

I agree that the narratives are subject to interpretation, but there are other dialogues--like in the writings of Plato--where we can see the questions facing the society at the time and intuit some things about the larger context. For example if someone were discussing the measurements of an aqueduct they were building, that conversation would leave little room for interpretation about the question of whether aqueducts were used during that time.
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