History Community ~ All Empires Homepage


This is the Archive on WORLD Historia, the old original forum.

 You cannot post here - you can only read.

 

Here is the link to the new forum:

  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

Forum LockedObjectivity

 Post Reply Post Reply Page  12>
Author
Parnell View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar

Joined: 04-Apr-2007
Location: Ireland
Status: Offline
Points: 1365
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Objectivity
    Posted: 24-Jan-2009 at 13:49
Given the essentially limited supply of primary sources with any historical period, is the quest for objectivity really a worthwhile effort? Is it even possible?
"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
Back to Top
gcle2003 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard
Avatar

Joined: 06-Dec-2004
Location: Luxembourg
Status: Offline
Points: 7011
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2009 at 14:05
It probably is at least theoretically impossible, but it's nevertheless worth the effort.
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork
Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.
Back to Top
Aster Thrax Eupator View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar
Porphyrygenitus Augustii

Joined: 18-Jul-2006
Location: United Kingdom
Status: Offline
Points: 1923
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aster Thrax Eupator Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2009 at 19:01
Ah...the old Postmodernist question...I'm not even going to bother refuting that! Why are you here anyway?
"Don't raise your voice - we all know how lovely it is!"
Triano, in "Mosterella" by Plautus! Read it...now!
Back to Top
Act of Oblivion View Drop Down
Colonel
Colonel
Avatar

Joined: 28-Oct-2005
Location: England
Status: Offline
Points: 718
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2009 at 21:08
 
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Given the essentially limited supply of primary sources with any historical period, is the quest for objectivity really a worthwhile effort? Is it even possible?
 
..its a reasonable enough question Parnell...some of the most famous (and some controversial) historians have pondered the same line of thought.....it maybe argued that objectivity is not totally possible, but any effort towards being objective has got to be worthwhile and better than none at all......
 
....i know some historians have 'agendas' but a good, all round, credible historians should try to achieve nothing else but objectivity...it validates the historians work and adds credibility to the history being recorded.....besides, what would replace objectivity if no one tried??..what would history become?...totally fiction?.....its a enqiury that has surfaced within the debate over history teaching in school curriculums, and the 'no objectivity' argument has led to some questioning the role of history in educational establishments, arguing that if it cannot be objective, then history lessons have no validity other than for entertainment purposes and therefore best served outside of the teaching agenda....and for me, that is pretty scary.....
 
...as for sources, as a modern historian, i find there is an overwhelming amount of research material to be harvested, the problem i find is getting access to it and having to wait for a 30 year gap for my most relevant material to come to light....!!!! not only that, but given time restraints, sometimes there is so much primary data it can be almost impossible to research all of it, and therefore an 'incomplete' essay may face the same charge of not being objective for the opposite reason to that stated by Parnell!!!...
 
..still, its a valid question and it will always keep historians on their toes, as that must be a good thing....Wink
 
..all the best.....AoO...
"No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes"


on mp3unsigned.com
Back to Top
Mixcoatl View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard
Avatar

Joined: 02-Aug-2004
Location: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Points: 4581
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mixcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Jan-2009 at 23:32
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

It probably is at least theoretically impossible, but it's nevertheless worth the effort.

I once read a very good analogy about this subject, I think  it's from Clifford Geertz. He compared objectivity with sterility. Even though a surgeon knows perfectly well that it's impossible to operate in a 100% sterile enviroment that doesn't mean he can just as well perform surgery in the sewer, but rather that he will try to make sure he can operate in an environment that is as sterile as possible. The same goes for objectivity: even though it's impossible to be a 100% objective for a historian (or any other academic), that doesn't mean he should give up every attempt to be objective.

Perhaps that's the biggest problem I have with postmodernism. The criticism they make is usually justified, but  their loosing every nuance and taking the completely opposite end of the spectrum makes no sense.
"Some argue that atheism partly stems from a failure to fairly and judiciously consider the facts"
"Atheists deny the existence of Satan, while simultaneously doing his work."

- Conservapedia
Back to Top
edgewaters View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard
Avatar

Joined: 13-Mar-2006
Location: Canada
Status: Offline
Points: 2396
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 00:50

Or, like satisfaction.

You can never be 100% satisfied. Once you achieve whatever it is that you think will satisfy all your desires, you find that you have new desires. Total satisfaction is always just out of reach, but it's in the striving for it that we find some measure of happiness.

Rejecting objectivity is kind of like saying, "well, I'm never going to be completely happy and satisfied, so why should I even bother trying? I will just shuffle along with my head down until I die."

Back to Top
Parnell View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar

Joined: 04-Apr-2007
Location: Ireland
Status: Offline
Points: 1365
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 13:48
I would like to stress that I share GCLE's and others position on all of this. Still an important question though.
"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
Back to Top
pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 22-Jan-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 4232
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 14:32
I would disagree that there are limited primary sources for the last five or six centuries.  Not too many people like bureaucracy, but bureaucracy has certainly stuffed the archives with directives, memoranda, and huge amounts of financial records and correspondence that was "to the point" and not intended to serve interpretive agendas.
 
One of my pet areas of interest has been the Spanish Monarchy in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Bureaucracy was the grease that kept that machine running (silver was the fuel).  The distances involved; the time it took to formulate and deliver instructions and the various locations where Habsburg Spanish interests were important has left enormous amounts of documentation and correspondence in archives at Salamanca, Lisbon, Belgium, Luxembourg, Burgundy, Genoa, Lombardy, Naples and Sicily and much of Latin America, as well as the Philippines.
 
I think there is also much in Vienna and Prague until the later 17th century.  In addition, the private libraries and family papers of prominent persons exist in great numbers, and, according to a couple of the scholars of the subject and period, these have not been accessed, or even been available, up until the last few decades.
 
That is just the Spanish Monarchy, and as early modern states coalesced around interests in the other Euro territories, well, of course they were all into it.
 
My language skills, and time, are completely inadequate to access all that, but excellent scholars have done it for the rest of us, and attributed their work to the primary sources.  Perhaps other forumers can address the availability of what we call primary sources in India, China, etc.
 
In ancient centuries, limited sources and questionable sources are more normal, and much of that history has to be recreated from legend and archaeology.  The amount of primary source material in the last couple of centuries is pretty overwhelming.  The receding of more recent historical time periods (and the demise of controversial figures from those) often results in newly available primary source material...often to be molded and shaped by academic theses or government advantage.  I think there is plenty of primary material since about 1450 to 1500. 
 
Objectivity in a subjective discipline such as history may be difficult to assure, but as gcle says, it is worth the effort.
 
 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 25-Jan-2009 at 14:35
Back to Top
pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 22-Jan-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 4232
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 14:34
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

I would like to stress that I share GCLE's and others position on all of this. Still an important question though.
 
With your university work, have you yet been in a course in historiography?  That can be a revelation for sources.
 
 
Back to Top
Al Jassas View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar

Joined: 07-Aug-2007
Status: Offline
Points: 1809
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 14:51
There is a saying in Arabic which goes like this "People will never be satisfied" (can't translate it for lack of suitable words).
 
No matter how objective you are, people will always look to your work through their custom made glasses which only sees one spectrum. They will always see a "bias" the only exist in their heads.
 
So bottom line is, write whatever the hell you want but stick to facts and don't try to sugurcoat it.
 
Al-Jassas
Back to Top
Parnell View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar

Joined: 04-Apr-2007
Location: Ireland
Status: Offline
Points: 1365
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 15:17
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

I would like to stress that I share GCLE's and others position on all of this. Still an important question though.
 
With your university work, have you yet been in a course in historiography?  That can be a revelation for sources.
 
 
 
Yes I have. When I say that the supply of primary sources are essentially limited, I mean that on the basis that we have no way of rediscovering exactly what happened, because of the tendency of human beings to forget, to lie, to distort etc. etc.
 
My favourite area is Irish history 1912-1924, and I'm aware of the wealth of sources out. Newspapers especially are a very rich source of information, due to the prevalence of provincial newspapers and their in depth reports of some of the most obscure encounters in the war of independence. But the supply of evidence is always limited, tis a fact of life!
"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
Back to Top
pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 22-Jan-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 4232
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 15:22
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

I would like to stress that I share GCLE's and others position on all of this. Still an important question though.
 
With your university work, have you yet been in a course in historiography?  That can be a revelation for sources.
 
 
 
Yes I have. When I say that the supply of primary sources are essentially limited, I mean that on the basis that we have no way of rediscovering exactly what happened, because of the tendency of human beings to forget, to lie, to distort etc. etc.
 
My favourite area is Irish history 1912-1924, and I'm aware of the wealth of sources out. Newspapers especially are a very rich source of information, due to the prevalence of provincial newspapers and their in depth reports of some of the most obscure encounters in the war of independence. But the supply of evidence is always limited, tis a fact of life!
 
You are lucky.  The sources are in English.  Try public archives and the writings of the movers and shakers in that period.  I think you can get ready access to the UK archives, and I imagine the Irish government as well.  Give it a try, maybe as a special project if you get credit for that sort of thing. 
 
Go for it, and have fun.
 
 
Back to Top
Parnell View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar

Joined: 04-Apr-2007
Location: Ireland
Status: Offline
Points: 1365
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 16:51
lol, I've done that before! I have an id card for the Irish national archives...
"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
Back to Top
Byzantine Emperor View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard
Avatar
Kastrophylax kai Tzaousios

Joined: 24-May-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 1804
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 20:17
As others have already astutely pointed out, this question has been important in the debates between historians of postmodern and more traditional epistemological persuasions.  It really hit its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s and has ebbed a bit since then. 
 
Nevertheless, we are seeing more and more new-generation historians who adobt a frightening Foucaldian and Derridean outlook towards objectivity.  It is very influential in the fields of English and Sociology.
 
Personally, I think a "middle way" between the two extremes must be found and upheld.  It is antiquated to think, as Ranka and his school did, that history is an absolute empirical science and can be told "as it was."  At the same time, we cannot become lost in literary critical theory and despair of ever touching on objectivity (or reject it outright).  If this happens then historians might as well write science fiction or NYT bestsellers on Atlantis and Templar conspiracies.
 
Back to Top
pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 22-Jan-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 4232
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 20:51
As academic fads seem to last about 20 years, B.E.'s concern about either Foucalt, or Derrida's sloppy thinking, overtaking historiography should not cause us much concern.
 
The fact that this sort of literary license and mushy intellectualism can take root in English and sociology should not be a surprise.  English is arts and letters with few rules, and sociology is pseudo-science with little validity.  In either one, you can say whatever you want and some editor will publish it; a university will hire you and your reputation is thus made.  It is a lot less work than historical research.
 
Historical research, like legal research, is hard work and requires logical application to 1) make sense, and 2) to be relevant to student and lay reader.  Some hyper-mental snob like Derrida was noted for countering criticism of his "thinking" by saying the critic didn't understand what he said, and was obviously not bright enough to do so.  Talk about the irrelevant academic.  Anyone can hide behind that garbage.
 
 
Back to Top
Act of Oblivion View Drop Down
Colonel
Colonel
Avatar

Joined: 28-Oct-2005
Location: England
Status: Offline
Points: 718
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2009 at 21:39
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

literary license and mushy intellectualism can take root in English and sociology should not be a surprise.  English is arts and letters with few rules, and sociology is pseudo-science with little validity.  In either one, you can say whatever you want and some editor will publish it; a university will hire you and your reputation is thus made.  It is a lot less work than historical research.
 
Historical research, like legal research, is hard work and requires logical application to 1) make sense, and 2) to be relevant to student and lay reader.  Some hyper-mental snob like Derrida was noted for countering criticism of his "thinking" by saying the critic didn't understand what he said, and was obviously not bright enough to do so.  Talk about the irrelevant academic.  Anyone can hide behind that garbage. 
 
.....this is exactly the kind of thing i have come up against in my post-grad research seminars and training...many of the presentations are from academics who specialise in the 'theory' without much thought given to the practical.....one intellectual (expert in religious studies) even stated that when approaching sources, it is not important (actually he said 'irrelevant') to establish whether something 'actually' happened.....one should only look at what the 'document' says....the whole affair was much more detailed than this, but in short, i disagreed 100% and said so, and after some debate, the chap in question resorted to the type of final approach that  Pikeshot gave with the example about Derrida....Confused...it was a kind of 'who are you to question me????' kind of conclusion..bizarre...
 
....out of about 12 full days of training in recent months, only one day proved useful to me as a potential historian..and that was a presentation concerning critical thinking, and a lecture regarding problems about 'sources', but  then again, it would be useful given that the information was presented by a historian!!!!!!!...the question of objectivity was brought up as well, discussed in full, positives and negatives, without resorting to this-ism and that-ism and a host of 'ology's.....Shocked....
 
..all the best...AoO....
 
... 
"No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes"


on mp3unsigned.com
Back to Top
pikeshot1600 View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 22-Jan-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 4232
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jan-2009 at 00:12
AoO,
 
A lot of academics have become essentially lazy.  Why work when you don't have to?  University faculty, in a lot of instances; certainly not the majority, are getting well paid (often at public expense) to serve this cold oatmeal to students whose families pay handsomely for the meal. 
 
Anyone can get something published somewhere, and all you have to do is keep churning and paraphrasing the same thesis over and over, and dismiss criticism as beneath you.
 
The Soviet historians were a lot better than that.  LOL
 
   


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 26-Jan-2009 at 00:15
Back to Top
Chilbudios View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar

Joined: 11-May-2006
Status: Offline
Points: 1899
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jan-2009 at 16:44

An essay about post-structuralism in history:

 
 
And to throw some gas on the fire, I believe there are circumstances when it makes much more sense to discuss the text than to speculate on the historicity of whatever it narrates.
 
After all, one can regard historiography as an attempt to understand how a piece of information was read and understood by different people. A rather postmodernist enterprise Tongue
Back to Top
konstantinius View Drop Down
General
General
Avatar

Joined: 22-Aug-2006
Status: Offline
Points: 762
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Jan-2009 at 12:30
Well, there's statistics; which also has the convenience of self-check. So, there you go. 
" I do disagree with what you say but I'll defend to my death your right to do so."
Back to Top
Parnell View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar

Joined: 04-Apr-2007
Location: Ireland
Status: Offline
Points: 1365
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Jan-2009 at 16:08

Lies, damn lies and statistics?

"Neither apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history" Eoin Mac Neill.
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply Page  12>
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.10
Copyright ©2001-2017 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.078 seconds.