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Is History an art or a science?

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2015 07:19 pm
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:

I suggest you review some college schools and departments andsee how much crossover exist in actual titles(eg a istorian as xhirman of the dept of archaeology and vice versa)

You want me to do your work for you? Sorry. If you want support for your own argument, you need to gather your own evidence.

farmerman wrote:
IF and ONLY IF, there is requirement of licensure of a discipline (engineering , geology, surveying , law) believe that anyone"Qualified" can practice n several fields.

I don't doubt that people can people can do both archeology and history. I'm not even sure why I have to say that, as I never denied that people can cross over into both disciplines. But then that just reinforces my point - they're two disciplines, not one. The day you hire an archeostorian, let me know.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2015 07:28 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

FBM wrote:

How doe the historian do experiments to test a hypothesis? How does a historian change only one variable and keep all the other conditions the same?
Hypothesises are solved with the above mentioned auxiliary sciences of history ... like e.g. physics, chemistry would be impossible without mathematics.


Yes, I mentioned this in the original thread where the question was first posed.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2015 07:48 pm
@Olivier5,
Olivier5 wrote:

I don't assume that sciences are superior to arts, so you can relax about the risk of misunderstanding. I know you are not belittling history.

How can a paleontologist experiment? Or an astronomer?


Like Walter said, they borrow from chemistry, physics, etc. Radiocarbon dating, the behavior of light in a vacuum, etc, are things that can be experimented with in the lab.
0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2015 08:31 pm
In short, the issue of falsifiability is easily solved: the Cambrian rabbit, or the pre-Cambrian elephant, or finding a sophisticated electronic device in a yet-unexplored, intact antiquity tomb, or scores of similar examples.

FM and others highlighted pluri-disciplinarity, with good reasons. If a historical narrative is strongly based (as it should) on physical evidence and manuscripts, and if this evidence has been collected and vetted in a scientifically kosher manner by archeologists, paleobiologists, statisticians, etc., then who is to say that the pieces of the puzzle are scientific in nature but the narrative or picture presented by the whole puzzle composed of these pieces put together is not inherently scientific? The narrative/picture can be false of course, but by this very reason it forms a scientific claim, falsifiable. All you need is to find one piece that won't fit the puzzle's reconstruction.

The issue of rationality hasn't been discussed. Do we agree that historians are not less rational than other scientists? Counter-argument: history is inherently more political and thus more likely and often biased than entomology. I suppose social sciences are inherently more prone to bias because they speak of OUR SPECIES. We find it harder to be objective about ourselves than about insects, not too surprisingly. E.g. most national history textbooks are biased to glorify the nation -- histoire de France not less than the US or Zimbabwean equivalents.

But what about the Theory of Evolution? Is the fact that religion has injected a strong bias in the debate about evolution reason enough to reject it as unscientific? No. Bias can be a problem in all sciences. But facts in the end decide. Or they don't, as also happens, but a scientist by definition shall bow to facts, whatever they are. The deference to facts is a defining characteristic of science.

So historians / social scientists are likely more biased than natural scientists. Does that mean all knowledge about mankind is terminally biased, and thus no social science possible. I don't think so. That would be throwing the science baby with the bias water. There are ways to deal with bias. A (semi)rational discourse about mankind is possible. Less purely rational than in natural sciences, but that comes with the territory. When biology started to tell things relevant about our species (eg Darwin), it entered the same ideological, political, religious minefield where social sciences tread every day: the story of mankind, and was exposed to the same strong bias as social sciences deal with regularly.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jan, 2015 08:39 pm
@Olivier5,
I'm not sure the social scientists are prone to be more biased, but in many cases their work is more subjective. Cognitive biases can be guarded against. I don't see any reason why social scientists would necessarily be less rational.

farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 04:29 am
@joefromchicago,
Quote:

You want me to do your work for you? Sorry. If you want support for your own argument, you need to gather your own evidence



Kinda snotty of you, The fact is that you have little knowledge of how the real world acts in this area.
Most Universities have archeology as a sub diicipline(available as degree programs only in their GRAD schools)
Univ of Penn , for example, offers archeology as a discipline beginning with MS. , undergrad degrees that "prepare" one for further wrk include History, anthropology, architecture, ancient history or geography.
No one here denied that history and archeology are two disciplines but you seem to try to want to convince us that they are mutually exclusive and they are not.
As far as "archeohistorian" Ive never heard of such a title ,but Ive heard of "Historical ARcheologist" and "archeologist/Historian" as actual job titles in Federal site investigations, and you know how they like titles.
My point was that the two dsciplines are not exclusive and that Historians (of course they need field methods or relevant topic experience) are frequently defined as the ranking "Qualified person" who operates as Project Director or Project Manager of a site program. Your belief as to"Who writes what narrative" is not so in the world of contract services.

.






farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 04:37 am
@Olivier5,
eg with other species, we attmpt to understand their methods of communications. In studying our own, we are over-blessed with many layers of communication, some of which is designed to deceive.
izzythepush
 
  3  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 05:25 am
This could easily be entitled, why isn't there a French term for 'ities?' I've spoken to some University students who've studied in France. Over there History is classed as "human science," not a social science at all. This is like humanities but with science in place of ities. In short science has been given a far looser definition.

History, unlike Sociology or Economics, is not a science, Sociology and Economics both apply scientific principles of experiment, History does not. Social sciences may not be held in as high regard as traditional sciences but that's because there's a lot more variables to consider.

It is worth bearing in mind that the recent recession did not become a full blown 1930s depression because of all the experiments that had been carried out back then.

So History is not a science, and if French had as wide a vocabulary as English they probably wouldn't regard it as a science either.
Walter Hinteler
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 05:47 am
@izzythepush,
When you look at the history of university history faculties ...
History as an independent academic discipline is a trend that began in Europe with the specialisation of science and the emergence of new taught subjects in the 19th century and led to a plethora of new seminars/institutes/faculties at major universities.

Up to then, history was taught in Germany mainly at law faculties.
And faculties for "state sciences" (those two were in the old univerities just one faculty "Fakultät für Rechts- und Staatswissenschaften"). "State sciences" of those days would be today: law, administration sciences, economic sciences, political sciences, sociology and ... history.

In Germany, this changed from Wilhelm of Humboldt's time onwards: the oldest institutes/faculties for history date back to the early 1800's.

It really seems that we have here totally different view on it: the wikipedia entry for "history of history science" exists only in German[/b] - but there, rather expanded.
izzythepush
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 05:53 am
@Walter Hinteler,
As always impeccably researched and very informative.
0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 06:37 am
@FBM,
FBM wrote:

I'm not sure the social scientists are prone to be more biased, but in many cases their work is more subjective. Cognitive biases can be guarded against. I don't see any reason why social scientists would necessarily be less rational.

The way I see it, personal biases are the reason for subjectivity. But I agree that they are ways to control that.

As for rationality, i just tried and present a counter-argument that's frequently leveled against history. I don't think it's a very strong argument. But just to illustrate it, anti-lepidopterism rarely colors an entomologist's jugement to the extent that anti-Frenchism colors the judgement of our good friend Izzy here. Who is not an historian but you get the drift: we tend to love and hate our fellow humans beings more passionately than butterflies.
Olivier5
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 06:41 am
@farmerman,
I agree. It's much easier to understand a human being than a dolphin, so social sciences are on some aspects much easier than natural sciences. But it's a deceptive ease, hiding traps and biases at each step.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  3  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 06:55 am
@Olivier5,
Olivier5 wrote:

...
As for rationality, i just tried and present a counter-argument that's frequently leveled against history. I don't think it's a very strong argument. But just to illustrate it, anti-lepidopterism rarely colors an entomologist's jugement to the extent that anti-Frenchism colors the judgement of our good friend Izzy here. Who is not an historian but you get the drift: we tend to love and hate our fellow humans beings more passionately than butterflies.


You make a strong point here. Euro-centrism, Sino-centrism, practically every country and/or culture offers incentives and often outright pressure for historians to produce a product that extolls the virtues of that culture or orientation. Or the opposite, such as Franco-phobia. I would be dishonest if I said that historians were completely oblivious to concerns about their careers, paychecks, lack of imprisonment and the like (thinking of N. Korea and China there). But I think I do see a general, if slow, trend towards the decentralization of perspective with respect to history. I may be wrong about that, but now that historians have science-based technologies to bring to bear, a lot more propaganda-based bullshit can be outed as bullshit, I think.

That said, rabid denialism combined with ultra-nationalism, religious fundamentalism and the like trumps all the scientific contributions when it comes to political influence. Sadly.

I think I rambled a bit there. I tend to do that towards bedtime.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 07:56 am
@FBM,
Quote:
But I think I do see a general, if slow, trend towards the decentralization of perspective with respect to history. I may be wrong about that, but now that historians have science-based technologies to bring to bear, a lot more propaganda-based bullshit can be outed as bullshit, I think.

It's not just a question of technology. Since the late 20th century, historians have started to address the issues with greater care and try to be as aware as possible of their own national historical biases.

History used to be seen as the art of telling stories about old kings. With story-telling came the need for dramatic effect, the need for heroes and villains for instance. History became a science precisely by attacking this hero-isation of official history.
bobsal u1553115
 
  3  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 08:26 am
History as Art and as Science: Twin Vistas on the Past
http://books.google.com/books/content?id=ILBv_yhKZLUC&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&imgtk=AFLRE73Xf_i1HrZ4TzNNw4DvU0_9yKU0RPJ0jkh2fWlJHnOTiGe397B5mQ47NZK_WwT_WKa26g2HOYO9XR-42PMgW69v-4jM_-BsRP3qfwCJUrCAUgTsz0ToDgQeKeFA9tMGtWnj9EgW
H. Stuart Hughes
University of Chicago Press, 1964 - History - 107 pages
0 Reviews
"Professor Hughes offers an earnest warning: 'Unless there is some emotional tie, some elective affinity linking the student to his subject of study, the results will be pedantic and perfunctory.' In other words, it is only a step from the sublime to the meticulous. Those eager to guard against that sad descent will find History as Art and as Science a guide, a tonic, and an inspiration. Its short, electrifying essays are so magnificently sane and persuasive they should be required reading for every student who contemplates a major in history."—Geoffrey Bruun, Saturday Review
More »
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 08:35 am
@Olivier5,
Different wording: I would say that historians are perforce becoming more unbiased by employing scientific technoglogies to base their interpretations upon. Consider the increasing role of scientific technologies applied in the field of art. X-rays and whatnot of old paintings, etc. But still, that does not make art itself a science. It's a field of endeavor that utilizes scientific technologies. No less important for it, either, I should add. The distinction may be between deductivelyy recovering lost information and pushing forward to discover new parameters, rather than inductively pursuing discovery of unknown ones. Not sure. It's way past my bedtime. I'll give this another look tomorrow. Cheers.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 10:14 am
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:

Kinda snotty of you, The fact is that you have little knowledge of how the real world acts in this area.

And it's presumptuous of you to think that you know what my background is in the "real world."

I know quite a bit about academia, and I dare say a good sight more than you do about history departments at universities. So don't think you can lecture me about those. That background allows me to state, with a good deal of certitude, that history and archeology are two completely different disciplines - and that's the real world.

That being said, I don't deny that historians utilize the results of archeological research. Indeed, historians are omnivorous when it comes to evidence. Much of our knowledge of the political history of the ancient world, for instance, comes from numismatics. But just because historians utilize archeological evidence doesn't make them archeologists. The daft notion that, because historians will occasionally utilize the results of scientific research, history is somehow a science is simply preposterous - rather like saying that, because I wear a feather in my hat, that somehow makes me a bird.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 10:17 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:
It really seems that we have here totally different view on it: the wikipedia entry for "history of history science" exists only in German[/b] - but there, rather expanded.

I think the problem there is that Wissenschaft means both "science" and a "field of knowledge" in German. For instance, Geisteswissenschaft could be translated as "spiritual science," but the idea that theology or philosophy, which fit under that category, are sciences is rather farfetched.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 10:31 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Very good point. Osso also pointed out earlier that the move from art to science was not necessarily always a good thing. History may have lost something relevant (and scientifically useful) when it started eschewing story-telling and rhetorics. This is an important aspect of this question. Sometimes art can help science, especially when the subject matter is cultural in nature.

My own source for this line of reasoning is: L'adieu au voyage - L'ethnologie française entre science et littérature, by V. Debaene. Fascinating review of how anthropology (called 'ethnologie' in France) was constituted as a science in the French academia from the 20s to the 50s, and how in the end so many of these founding fathers of french ethnology felt they had been too eager to disentangle their discipline from arts, and had lost some useful tools in that process (eg literary critique) and also a lot of motivation.

Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2015 10:38 am
@FBM,
FBM wrote:
historians are perforce becoming more unbiased by employing scientific technoglogies to base their interpretations upon.

I'd put that differently: BECAUSE historians have embarked on a conscious, explicit project to strengthen the evidence base and scientific rigor of their discipline, they are using more and more hard sciences in their data collection effort.
0 Replies
 
 

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