Prolegomena to History

Prolegomena to History : The Relation of History Toliterature, Philosophy, and Science

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PROFESSOR TEGGART'S Prolegomena represents another attempt to prove that history is not a natural science, that it should be a natural science, but that it cannot be a natural science unless it abandons the methods employed up to the present by historians and adopts the methods employed by natural scientists. With all of which one might most heartily agree, while pointing out to Professor Teggart that the result of the application of the methods of natural science to past social data would give us sociology, the laws of social development, and not history, the "unique synthesis of social evolution." Professor Teggart's argument against the present methods of the historian rests; it seems to me, upon a number of false assumptions. It is not true that science and natural science are synonymous; the former embraces the latter and something more, the synthesis of past social facts called "history" being quite as scientific as the synthesis of past social facts called "sociology." It is not true that history is "the statement of an indeterminable number of concrete individual cases" (p. 241), nor is it a "current dictum" that "historical scholarship must confine itself at present to the collection of facts, so that from these, in an undefined future, the 'laws' of history may be formulated" (p. 160). It is interesting to note in connection with this last assertion that the citations of Professor Teggart from Monod, Freeman, Bury, Adams, and Jameson give no support to the assumption, these writers having in mind a future synthesis that shall rest on their partial investigations, and not the formulation of laws from the facts they had collected. This false conception of the task of the historian vitiates all the work of Professor Teggart, although at times he contradicts himself, stating correctly the task of the historian when he says, "the problem confronting every historian is how to bring the heterogeneous materials at his disposal within the compass of a unity" (p. 193), 0r "what constitutes it a masterpiece of historical writing is the wide vision that gives unity to the whole narrative." It is not true that history is "the manifestation of constant processes" (p. 246) nor is it the duty of the historian to investigate "the processes manifested in the concrete instances of history" (p. 241). It is not true that "a clear-cut distinction must be made between historiography and historical inquiry" (p. 239) for the simple reason that they are inseparable; the end of historical research is historiography. It is not true that historians now advocate "that we should investigate the past with our minds a perfect blank as to what we wish to know" (p. 16!), that is to say, that the historian does not set and solve problems. It is not true that "logic ignores the scientific possibilities of historical inquiry because the historian has not yet found a way to turn to account the opportunities which his materials present" (p. 221). It is not true that "the crux for logic was that history claimed to be a science, though it did not produce scientific results" (p. 219), but rather that history was a legitimate form of organized knowledge for which the current definition of science left no place. The problem was to distinguish between the logic of the organization of past social facts in the form of a synthesis displaying a unique evolution, and the logic of a series of generalizations or laws treating of the processes revealed by an examination of past social facts. History never claimed to be a natural science, hence it never employed the methods of natural science and as science is not "solely" "the systematic investigation of the processes manifested in phenomena," the method of natural science is not "the only method that can satisfy the ambition or provide an outlet for the activity of the investigator." -"The American Historical Review," Volume 22 [1917]show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 142 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 8.13mm | 267.62g
  • Createspace
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1508782881
  • 9781508782889