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History and the Human Sciences as Systems of Knowledge

Uploaded by thomy on Apr 24, 2001

“What are the main difficulties human scientists confront when trying to provide explanations of human behaviour? What methods have been invented to circumvent these difficulties and to minimize their influence on the results that are obtained?”

Although many people in the field of human sciences try to get their disciplines to be recognized as pure sciences, there are many differences that distinguish the natural sciences from the human sciences. There is a certain kudos that comes with the natural sciences that people in the human sciences crave, but human sciences can never be like the natural sciences.

This is what causes there to be difficulties with human scientists trying to explain their science. They lack the definite, and factual ground on which the natural sciences are based. When a natural scientist hypothesises that when he heats some water to 100 degrees, it will boil. And then after an experiment, it is shown that it does, one can not argue that perhaps on another day the water wouldn’t feel like boiling at 100 degrees, or that perhaps it was only boiling at that temperature because there were people watching. Water boiling at 100 degrees is a scientific fact. It will occur every time the experiment is carried out. However, in the field of human sciences, these facts do not exist, and this makes it very difficult for a human scientist to prove any of his theories, or speculate on situations with any authority. The reason for this is that the study of human sciences involves, obviously, human behaviour. Human behaviour does not follow the same patterns that are observed with particles of matter, or certain metals, it is almost totally unpredictable.

However, the human sciences do use similar methods of attaining knowledge to the natural sciences. The methods by which the human scientist attains knowledge has the same basic principles to that of the natural scientist. They have hypotheses which they test through observing, and analysing their observations. However, in the natural sciences, the observer is quite distinct from the experiment, as an astronomist is distinct from the planets and stars that he is observing. Whereas, in the human sciences, a human is the observer, and humans are the experiment. This complicates things. In every science there are theories. In the natural sciences these theories can be proved true or false, and therefore it can be determined whether these theories have an...

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Uploaded by:   thomy

Date:   04/24/2001

Category:   Miscellaneous

Length:   4 pages (859 words)

Views:   1917

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