Philosophy of History

What is Fords point Why did he say this Is he right Does his view of American traditions have any bearing on the past, or on todays historians

Based on Henry Fords remarks, history for him is meaningless.  It can be inferred here that he did not care much about traditions for him, traditions were a matter of keeping the past alive and not think about the future.  As a pioneer in his field, he always focuses on the future and has no need of the past.
One of the problems with history is that it is sometimes the least favorite subject of any student in school, next to mathematics.  Most people tend to regard history as nothing more than storytelling and because of this, is downright boring and not so interesting.  Historians beg to differ in that regard.  While it is true that history is defined as either the past per se, or an account of the past, it does not necessarily mean it should be left that way, that is, to remain in the past.

Apparently, Ford and others like him appear to underestimate what history can do as a discipline.  History is more than just storytelling and it is more than just tradition.  History is a teacher.  It uses the past as a way of educating one at present and in order to prepare for the future.  This was something Ford seemed to have overlooked or took for granted.  History provides a background for anything to be studied, hence the term historical background.  Everything has a past because it has to start from somewhere.  It is this background that would provide the foundation for the present and if it were not for this, the present would not be possible.

Yet, Ford did have a point when he said that what is significant or matters more is the history we make today.  Anytime or point in ones life, that today, is an opportunity to make history but this is where Ford seemed to have stopped.  What he did not realize is that the history he made today would become part of the past of tradition.  It can be inferred here that Ford might be caught up in his ambitions and cared more about his own achievements and putting down that of others.  It can be said that Ford had probably committed a fallacy when he made this remark.  History is an integral part of human life and whether one likes it or not, it will still be there.  History has significance and to ignore its lessons or what it has to offer would be a great disservice to one.  If there is one thing about tradition that makes it significant, it provides stability and continuity.

Is history a science Why or why not Is science divorced from its own past What can science do for history. What (if anything) can history do for science Is scientific method a myth Does historical method exist Is it possible What is the relation between history, rationality and objective, verifiable truth
History is regarded to be both an art, a branch of the humanities and a science. History is regarded as a discipline of the humanities in the sense that the study of history is subjective.  When a historian studies historical evidence, there are more than one ways in looking at it.  Therefore, there are many ways to interpret a fact. Nothing is absolute and no one can dispute the validity since there is basis for arriving at the conclusion which the facts on hand.  A historian then cannot be accused of making up information or a conclusion from nothing.  This is what gives history its humanistic aspects, it is how one interprets the facts on hand.

History is considered a science for two reasons.  First, the study of history requires investigative research and the methods a historian uses is similar to what scientists so.  Secondly, historical facts are validated through theories to determine its validity (Ankersmit  Kellner, 1995, pp. 42).  Facts serve as the basis of truth and truth must be grounded in reason.  Historians are not mere storytellers and they do not make up stories. They are also investigators. The stories they make up are grounded on the facts they uncover and study.  They also possess the same skills as detectives and journalists in searching for information vital to the writing of history.  These information or sources they use to write history are called primary sources.  These can be ordinary things like a personal diary or a letter to significant ones like document that make history like a constitution or a treaty.  These would be used as a basis of writing history and when combined with other similar sources, a historian can now create a patter or chain of events and in doing so, make use of various theories or schools of thought to validate his or her study of the past.  This is how scientific method is brought into play.

In history, one of the virtues or goals of the historian is the accuracy of the facts.  History deals primarily with facts, which forms the basis of truth.  It is these (historical) facts that serve as the basis for writing history and one of the things historians do is to ascertain its accuracy by looking at primary sources.  This is what science does for history.  It provides it with (research) methodology and provides theoretical framework as a service to history in the search for truth and to determine its validity.

In any form of research, there is always the historical method.  Whenever one tackles a certain topic, it would often begin with a historical background which would entail conducting an investigation into the past.  This would mean examining pertinent data.  Like a puzzle, these data would be pieced together to form a clear picture of how things developed and become what it is at present.

Since history deals with facts, it is essential that accuracy is achieved.  In studying it, it must be done rationally, based on the theoretical and conceptual framework provided by science and when one draws a conclusion, it has to be objective (Lemon, 2003, p.7). Among historians, however, it would be realistically impossible to arrive at an objective conclusion.  The reason for being is that humans are prone to bias and this would taint the conclusion drawn up.  However, in fairness to the historian, as long as the facts would serve as the basis, he or she would not be accused of not being objective.  But the challenge now is how to get around the biases.  What is suggested is that historians be impartial.  This would probably be the closest a historian would get to being objective.  Impartiality entails looking at various perspectives, rather than limiting oneself to only one.  By viewing various perspectives, a historian would gain a much clearer insight and be able to draw a very reasonable conclusion.

All in all, history is a discipline that can encompass other disciplines.  If there is one significant contribution or role it plays is that it provides a backgrounder that serves as the foundation of any research being conducted as well as a starting point that helps define the direction of the study.
What is Thucydides point Why did he say this Is he right Does his view of Athenian history have any bearing on America, or on the problems we face today

Thucydides studied the Pelopennesian War.  In his point of view, the Greek forces led by Athens were facing defeat at a much more superior force than they have thought.  It can be inferred here that they did not know what they were getting to when they committed themselves to war.  The cyclical view of history was employed here and apt to repeat itself though the actors are different and in this case, it would be the United States in Vietnam.

Thucydides was probably the earliest to make use of scientific history because of his strict standards of obtaining information and analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods.  He had somewhat revolutionized the study of history by leaving divine intervention out of it and sought to study it as the cause of human factors, such as the case of the Pelopennesian War.

When he studied the war, he did not limit himself to studying the battles alone not simply chronicling accounts.  He assiduously borrowed from other disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, psychology and even economics even though these disciplines may not be non-existent in name.  He studied the socio-economic conditions of the belligerents, the mood of the people, as well as the incumbent governments.  All these were essential because they helped provide historians like Thucydides what would be called underlying circumstances.  It is these circumstances that would be the root cause of certain events in history to unfold (Ankersmit  Kellner, 1995 p.27).  The immediate cause would merely serve as the catalyst to set things off.  This was what made Thucydides arrive at his remark on what would become of the Greek (Athens) army.  In doing so, he was able to determine how humans would influence the outcome of events, not the gods through his careful research.

In applying the same principle during contemporary times, one can see that the same approach Thucydides took applies in studying American history.  This can be first applied in studying the Vietnam War.  The United States got involved with the hope of winning the war as they have done in past wars yet they lost.  To understand why, one has to look at various circumstances, not just the battles or military operations alone.  This would mean looking at the social, cultural, economic as well as political.  The confluence of these aspects would enable a historian to have a much deeper insight and understanding why the war turned out this way.  This same approach can also be used in Americas current war on terrorism as well using the same questions.


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