Can History Be Objective?

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,240
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The key factor in any piece of writing is the impression, in the mind, imparted to the reader.

The quality of an author is a further question, but there are professors extant at the leading universities of the world. If you like, there are none better. And it is an art form.

You appear also to be referring to subliminal messages that exist unnoticed within a text. This is surely highly contentious and very potentially spurious, if anything is.

The equation might read MI = M + (x+I).

Further, to understand something is not necessarily, or by definition, an interpretation; which is evidently a word that has explicitly multiple understandings or difference. And surely chosen "for a reason". In the end all history is a point of reference. This is also reasonable and astute.
No, there are no "subliminal messages that exist unnoticed within a text" ... [? why should they be there?] The point is about perception and understanding. This is valid for any coded message, from a text to a picture, from an archaeological find to an engraved depiction.

As I was explaining, usually the code makes the work: a good shared code makes it really simple to receive a message almost identical to the one issued by the author. But it's not said. For example, in this case you have misunderstood what I meant. Or I've coded the message in a not perfect way or you haven't decoded it in a perfect way ... or partially a bit of this and a bit of that. This is a field where Semiotics can help to understand historiography a bit more.

The problem becomes even more complicated when we deal with death languages or no languages at all.

In not a few cases, historians have to tell events, not to summarize texts. They can collect a mass of documents to help them to make a reconstruction, but the quality of the collected material will determine the level of interpretation required to build something decent. This is a very rational process, btw.
 
Sep 2015
1,762
England
No, there are no "subliminal messages that exist unnoticed within a text" ... [? why should they be there?] The point is about perception and understanding. This is valid for any coded message, from a text to a picture, from an archaeological find to an engraved depiction.

As I was explaining, usually the code makes the work: a good shared code makes it really simple to receive a message almost identical to the one issued by the author. But it's not said. For example, in this case you have misunderstood what I meant. Or I've coded the message in a not perfect way or you haven't decoded it in a perfect way ... or partially a bit of this and a bit of that. This is a field where Semiotics can help to understand historiography a bit more.

The problem becomes even more complicated when we deal with death languages or no languages at all.

In not a few cases, historians have to tell events, not to summarize texts. They can collect a mass of documents to help them to make a reconstruction, but the quality of the collected material will determine the level of interpretation required to build something decent. This is a very rational process, btw.
But you referred to 'the message really issued by the author', in your earlier post. And a "coded message" implies something like a subliminal message.

A text will be dependent on the quality of its sources, sure, but surely also, on the quality of its author?

Collation of a mass of materials can seem like something of an art-form especially for the ego, but i agree may indeed be a more rational cerebral/neurological procedure !
 
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AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
26,240
Italy, Lago Maggiore
But you referred to 'the message really issued by the author', in your earlier post. And a "coded message" implies something like a subliminal message.

A text will be dependent on the quality of its sources, sure, but surely also, on the quality of its author?
A language is a code, any message is coded simply because to communicate it we need to code it ... using a "language" [which is a "code"].

When we receive a message we do [our brains do] the opposite, decoding it.

While the author is absolutely certain about the content of the issued message, the receiver of it has to rely on comprehension and on the quality of the code used by the author. We do that [even posting on this message board, like our present exchange of messages demonstrates].

This process can become "difficult" when we receive a message issued by a person died centuries ago and coded in a curious language [example: medieval German], simply because we cannot ask for clarifications [if not summoning a ghost!], but it can become "tragic" if there is no text at all.
 
Oct 2011
203
Croatia
I cannot agree: Dealing with the subjectivity of sources is one of the skills in jugdement of the historian. The holes might be filled by talking about those holes, about an apparent lack of further evidence, again, especially evident when reading ancient history. Interpretation in this context is automatically an educated guess; which might be presented as an educated guess; which might be left as, as far as we can surmise... etc. No, you do not have to fill in those holes. You can talk about them.

In trying to be impartial you are presenting your text as just that, attempting to be impartial. The reading of the same is realised thereby. And in so reading and thinking, an impartial approach has been established.

In a court of law you can interpret evidence with impartiality. Sure there is a defense and a prosecution, but there is also a judge, and a jury... !!! Are they never ever impartial?

Presenting your finds 'in what might appear to be the most innocent of ways is still to privilege that description over another...' (Jenkins 1999). But no, that is just not the case. It is merely a contribution. You may think of it as a candidate or contestant in a contest, and rational argument may follow, unless you are appealing to peoples emotions and prejudices!

Jenkins continues that his book is '...polemical and partisan...'
Again, objectivity and impartiality are not the same. Objectivity would, by definition, require complete knowledge of the subject, and is thus by definition impossible unless you are an all-knowing God. Impartiality merely requires knowledge of evidence at hand.

Even if you present an educated guess as an educated guess, it is still not objective. Even if you present only facts that you had found out, it is still not objective - you will never have all the facts, and your personal input will still decide the manner in which you present those facts, manner in which you arrange them and emphasis given to each fact.

What you are talking about is impartiality, not objectivity. But question is "can history be objective", not "can history be impartial". My answer is yes to the second question, but definite no to the first one.
 
Sep 2015
1,762
England
Again, objectivity and impartiality are not the same. Objectivity would, by definition, require complete knowledge of the subject, and is thus by definition impossible unless you are an all-knowing God. Impartiality merely requires knowledge of evidence at hand.

Even if you present an educated guess as an educated guess, it is still not objective. Even if you present only facts that you had found out, it is still not objective - you will never have all the facts, and your personal input will still decide the manner in which you present those facts, manner in which you arrange them and emphasis given to each fact.

What you are talking about is impartiality, not objectivity. But question is "can history be objective", not "can history be impartial". My answer is yes to the second question, but definite no to the first one.
When i came across these debates in academia and the wider world, about the subjective and objective, i simply looked these words up in my dictionary. It's a Chambers from 1996. It's quite obvious an ideology has invented a definition of objectivity, totally and entirely different to what appears in peoples dictionaries, in order to deploy it! of course

The dictionary definition of objective - and there is no obvious reason to change our definitions of words, they will always be important - Is being impartial. The definition of subjective, again in my dictionary Is based on personal feelings & opinions, or Not Objective.

If objective is god-like, there really is very little everyday use for the word (unless you are believing in some way). Just not sensible thereby. And therefore i ask quite seriously, who told you that? What book, what teacher?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,522
Sydney
But we're not robots.
we are humans , whatever that is ,
historical fact like a ruined city in the Cambodian countryside are objective reality , it is about an object
the nature of this city governance and reach , its origin , turmoils and motivations get deeper into the darkness

there are not one historical truth in my mind , only a bundle of probabilities not necessary excluding each other
can history be objective ...yes if on stick to objects
is it subjective ...yes , if one has only third hand accounts of biased recorders
this is not to say that plain lies are not insightful
human nature being a constant on can parse a fair bit of possibilities from the tritest propaganda
 
Sep 2015
1,762
England
we are humans , whatever that is ,
historical fact like a ruined city in the Cambodian countryside are objective reality , it is about an object
the nature of this city governance and reach , its origin , turmoils and motivations get deeper into the darkness

there are not one historical truth in my mind , only a bundle of probabilities not necessary excluding each other
can history be objective ...yes if on stick to objects
is it subjective ...yes , if one has only third hand accounts of biased recorders
this is not to say that plain lies are not insightful
human nature being a constant on can parse a fair bit of possibilities from the tritest propaganda
In an internet search via Bing i got the following: 'Objectivity is a philosophical concept of being true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination.'

So what's the point? Seriously. If objectivity is independent from the individual, then it's not overly relevant to the human being, is it. When one has gained full independence from ones individual(ness) what are u like? What are we like?

The page continued: 'A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject.

'Caused by a sentient subject'. We are a sentient species, so no one is ever capable of being objective. So being objective is a pointess word made up by human beings (for some reason), to describe a state of (some) mind that is not human. Therefore we are talking in the wrong subject forum. This thread should logically be found under biology, meta-physics, possibly astronomy!

Objectivity, under a certain philosophical definition, just cannot be applied to any sentient being.

So if we scrubb all that, and reckon on the dictionary definition for objectivity, my dictionary at least has the following, in full:

Objective --- adj - 1) Not depending on, or influenced by, personal opinion or prejudice. 2) Philos. having existence outside the mind; based on fact or reality. 3) Grammar, indicting the object.
noun - 1) a thing aimed at or wished for, a goal. 2) Grammar the object case.

Subjective --- adj. 1) based on personal thought and feelings; not impartial or objective. 2) Grammar indicating or referring to the subject of a verb, nominative.

The philosophical definition of the word, from a post-modernist reckoning, subsequently applied to all history books... is something therefore that is inapposite, misplaced, an inappropriate application, amazingly irrelevant. To do so would be to give your trust away; to reduce the corpus of all human history writing and scholarship, since the dawn of time, to nothing. Nothing!

It implies that whatever you think you know about history, you don't. There's something wrong with it. All premised on the fact, by definition, that having thought it all through, they weren't written by God.

So, in polite terms, so what?

What's the question all about, what's the original clip in post 1 all about, what's it for...

see also post 60...
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Under the dictionary definition above therefore, it is not a question of whether history books are objective, they are all objective (probably), it is a question of how objective they are?
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,522
Sydney
It seems to me you are talking philosophy , and little about history
this is getting tiresome and I wish not to be dragged into waters I where I will hopelessly founder
 

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