Justification of History

Mon Sep 1 01:29:10 2008
I was unimpressed with the first four of Fischer’s justifications (Historians’ Fallacies, pp. 315-16). The results seemed modest and I was not completely convinced that history could even achieve them. I started to wonder what I thought was useful about history and came to the same conclusion as Fisher. “…there is another one which I regard as even more important. Historians have a heavy responsibility not merely to teach people substantive historical truths but also to teach them how to think historically.” (p. 316) As Fischer mentions, historical thought is needed in many simple but important everyday tasks. Daily news reporting alone is a veritable compendium of the many fallacies that Fischer outlines in this book. Thinking historically, about sources and documentation, about bias, about causation and explanation, is the basis of almost all decision-making. Question-framing, verification, and significance inform the most basic evaluations. Avoiding distortion and distraction keep us focused on what is substantive. It is hard to imagine a democratic society, which demands the informed participation of all citizens, could function without these abilities.

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~ by severalfourmany on September 1, 2008.

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