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 History: Is it science or art?

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Nobiles BarbariƦ

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Join date : 2011-12-25

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PostSubject: Re: History: Is it science or art?   History: Is it science or art? - Page 2 EmptySat 17 Mar 2012, 20:01

Temp quoting Lawrence Stone wrote:

... one should always try to write plain English, avoiding jargon and obfuscation, and making one's meaning as clear as possible to the reader ...

An admirable sentiment though I can see one drawback, having once been accused on the BBC forum of obfuscation for having used a large word. The word? "Obfuscation".

Without dragging the discussion further into one of literary style I would simply say that there is exactitude and clarity when writing. They are not synonymous and in fact rarely overlap when attempting to convey an honest representation of one's views on a topic which requires both to be imparted. If I am reading, for example, an analysis of the data gleaned from an archaeological dig then I expect exactitude. If I am reading speculative theory regarding what the data might imply I appreciate clarity, since I have noticed that a commitment to such clarity lends itself to honest theory and exposes dishonest theory all the more easily in other cases. Obfuscation in either exercise is unwelcome and raises more suspicions than interest on my part, though the solution to avoiding it is not quite the same for both.

Objectivity, a concept touched upon in Paul's linked articles, is itself not objectively ascertained in the case of historical theory, whereas in the case of scientific analysis of historical data it stands a much better chance of so being. With this in the back of one's mind one becomes after a while quite adept at noticing the point of departure from one to the other, sometimes even within one sentence, when reading historical treatise.

It is a question of expectation. I expect that that the author has conflated the two for reasons of literary style and readability, and I expect that my own intelligence as the reader is not being understimated when it comes to recognising and acknowledging this. However when I suspect for even a moment that the author himself is not aware of the conflation, or is doing it in the hope that I am too obtuse to notice, then both he and his theory decline rapidly in my estimation. Much "biblical" archaeology and the books etc which are produced in that field are cases in point. But there are many other examples (depressingly many these days).
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Virgo Vestalis Maxima

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Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : UK

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PostSubject: Re: History: Is it science or art?   History: Is it science or art? - Page 2 EmptySun 18 Mar 2012, 07:53

Just edited my post above. Realised that bits of it didn't make sense as originally written. History: Is it science or art? - Page 2 650269930

Didn't mean to "drag" the discussion into one of literary style - sorry!

PS I think obfuscation is a delightful word, and one that should be used more often.
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