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1 2 Historically Speaking · February 2003 Bloch. "The onlypossible progress ofhistory is the widening ofits vision." There—butonly there—Veyne and Carr seem to agree. Veyne's clear and sharp aphorisms ought not mislead the reader. His book is difficult to read. And Veyne's dicta, or at least his terminology , are at times debatable. "There is no historical or historians' consciousness." "The knowledge of the past is foreign to consciousness ." I cannot accept diis, especially from a historian whose book deals primarily with knowledge and consciousness. The problem may be in the different nuances of two languages: conscience and connaissance in French mean both knowledge and consciousness (example: to lose consciousness, perdre connaissance, in French means losing knowledge). I cannot tell. What I can tell is diat diere is not a single reference to Carr in Veyne's erudite book, chock-full of notes and citations and references from all kinds ifphilosophers and historians. These include not a few from Henri-Irénée Marrou's superb De la connaissance historique (1954), evidendyunknown byall ofdie previous mentioned authors, even though an English translation ofMarrou (The Meaning ofHistory) appeared in 1966. (The same is true ofmyHistoricalConsdousness, but I am used to diat.) So much for "die community of historians," "international scholarship ," "scientific consensus," "die blessings of die Internet," "die Information Revolution ," etc., etc.—all ofthem shibboleths, serving ignorance and obscuring learning. John Lukacss most recent book is Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian (Yale University Press, 2002). Empiricism and History Bruce Mazlish "S hould History be More Empirical?" Few questions call to mind so many associated topics. Bywhat is almost free association, one thinks ofdie connection of this question to discussions about the nature offacts, evidence, inference, objectivity , positivism, and a host ofsimilar concerns. In regard to history itself, discussions about the historiographie and methodological issues surrounding the question are themselves legion. Empiricism, ofcourse, is a philosophical notion, with a history attached to it. As any dictionary will inform us, it is an epistemological position that claims all knowledge originates in sense impressions and experience , to which is attached some sort of process ofinduction. The words "observation " and "experiment" are usually invoked as well. The position is generally linked to the work of such 17th-century figures as Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, and John Locke, to which is added in die next century David Hume. The counter figure is René Descartes, whose rationalism is seen as die opposite epistemológica! commitment to diat ofempiricism. Without going further into die history of empiricism, we can easily see that it is an historically located belief, flowering in the 17di centuryin Europe (althoughwidi antecedents in antiquity). Challenged early on by the Cartesians, it has nevertheless persisted in various forms until the present. Markers along the way are Auguste Comte in the 19di century and die logical positivists ofdie 20th century. Such a linear account, however, ignores all die nuances, the modifications, and die changes in emphasis connected widi die advocates of empiricism. It also ignores all die philosophical debates surrounding the topic, in regard to induction, inference, and related issues mentioned earlier. To tackle such debates could easily drown us in an intellectual quagmire.1 To avoid doing so, let us narrow our consideration of the subject to empiricism and history, acknowledging that even dien, die shadow of philosophical speculation hangs over us. Trying to avoid the shadow as much as possible, we can start with die injunction to die historian to pursue empirical research. What does diis mean? In general, empiricism in history means grounding one's work in archival sources, which mosdy means documents. Any assertion—Napoleon did such and such— should be based on pieces ofpaper: so and so wrote about Napoleon's action in a report, a diary, a private letter. The assertion mustthen be tested: is die documentpossiblya forgery? Is it contradicted by other sources? Is it consistent with other evidence? And so fordi. Only after such quizzing ofthe material does die historian come to a conclusion: Napoleon did such and such. It all seems fairly straightforward. Going onward under the banner of Ranke, historical research is therefore seen as die central task of die historian, widi die chosen result...


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