The Instigator
Apeiron
Pro (for)
Winning
18 Points
The Contender
Anaxa
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points

Historical Truths Can be Discovered

Do you like this debate?NoYes+3
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
Apeiron
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,778 times Debate No: 30686
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (6)

 

Apeiron

Pro








I believe that historical truths can be known such as if the man Jesus was actually resurrected from the dead. Or if what he said could actually be discerned by use of the historical sciences and their methods. Therefore, my burden of proof will be to show that Historical Realism is possible and that Historical Relativism is less plausible. By contrast my opponent's BoP is opposite this, he must show that Historical Relativism is more plausible, and that Historical Realism is impossible. I thank Anaxa for starting this debate in private messages.


Here then is the outline of what I'll debate,




Critique of Historical Relativism

The Problem of Lack of Direct Access

The Problem of Lack of Neutrality




My defense of Historical Realism is mainly taken from this paper,


http://www.jstor.org...




Defending Historical Realism


Self-Evident Autonomy of Description
Anaxa

Con






I thank Apeiron for this most interesting debate. Indeed I've watched how and what Apeiron debates on this site and have been very impressed by his method and his skill in showing the reasonableness of his views. Indeed I think that Apeiron is quite easily one of the top debaters on this site. And I wish I had him as a student in my logic class!


I accept my burden of proof and will give my outline below as well in the same format:




Defending Historical Relativism


The Problem of Lack of Direct Access

The Problem of Lack of Neutrality




Critique of Historical Realism


Self-Evident Autonomy of Description
Debate Round No. 1
Apeiron

Pro







Thank you Anaxa for the kind words! :-)



Critique of Historical Relativism


Lack of Direct Access


Anti-Realism of Constructionism

There are two types of Constructionism, Methodological Constructionism which is a thesis for how the historical past should be regarded as what the evidence indicates. And then there's Ontological Constructionism (Strong / Weak), which is a thesis for how reality is constituted. Let's look at the former.


For Methodological Constructionism, it posits that the evidence says x, it would not be x unless my hypothesis were true, therefore my hypothesis is true. Here there is no incompatibility between historical realism and methodological constructionism.



But now for Ontological Constructionism, Historians actually constitute the past via representations, and so there's no real past, rather just a subjective ‘past for you, a past for me’ mentality. This view implies a fantastic subjective idealism!




Lack of Direct Access


If the evidence justifies belief in the historians statements, then knowledge is obtained. But weak Ontological Constructionism says, “but we don’t know that the reconstruction is actually corresponding to the past." But to know that we know x, we don’t have to know that we know it! Justifying our justification is an epistemological principle which should be rejected, for the historian who reconstructs on the basis of justifying evidence know the past by definition. Here the Ontological Constructionist will say that, “Realism doesn’t factually contribute to historian’s work in a global sense.” But now realism is a thesis lending to science & history a significance they would otherwise lack, and through evidence, realism constrains anti-realism’s tendency for incompatibilities. Thus Constructionism ontologically fails while it remains methodologically vital.


Anti-Realism of Constructionism
Modern Relativism holds that historical objects doesn't equate to Scientific objects. Traditional historical relativists therefore claim a greater inaccessibility compared to the scientist. First to think that scientists always have direct access to what they study is naive. Scientists are largely dependant upon other reports (counting as historical documents), and their object of study is often indirectly accessible in theoretical fields like physics, glaciers, dinosaurs, galaxies are all highly inaccessible yet these are postulated constantly!


Second, the residue of the past is directly accessible. The historian is not simply dependant upon prior historical writings or translations, for archaeological data just IS direct access: though the evidence are not the events, nevertheless it leads to knowledge OF those events.



Modern Historians therefore aren't so heavily dependant upon subjective literary writings as they were before the advancements in linguistics, sociology, anthropology, numismatics, archaeology etc, all of these are well developed fields of inquiry.


Thus History in the humanities is like Geology in in the Sciences. The human factor is the only difference, since rocks don’t lie deliberately! But even that can be circumvented since the humanity sciences mentioned earlier are well developed. The accessibility to the data is the same in both fields however. The Geologist subject matter is earth history whereas the historian's subject matter is human history. Their task is the same: thus the Modern Relativist argument loses all its punch. Hence if lack of direct access can’t preclude geological knowledge, then it can’t preclude historical knowledge.




Nature of Historical Facts

The mind-dependant meaning of historical facts is ridiculous, for the notion of a fact without meaning is logically incoherent. Meaning is inherent in the very concept of fact: what the fact is is its meaning! Using particular vocabulary in no way implies that the the description fails to express a fact. When Postmodern Relativists say historians impart meaning to facts, they use meaning to mean significance. This type of meaning is in an evaluative sense like importance, etc. But this does nothing to undermine objectivity, just because some attribute different perspectives
Facts are “out there,” and the historian’s subjective influences are constrained by these facts



Testability of Historical Facts

Historical facts are tested like Science by logical consistency the ability to explain the evidence, etc. The historical application of scientific testing even involves the Hypothetico-deductive model, where one invents a hypothesis (H) to explain a fact (f). Then they deduce non-/confirmatory conditions (c) from H. The experiment (E) is then observed to see which c obtain. E for the historian would be evidence constraining (E’): For his H must corroborate with E’. So what happened in the past is what the E’ indicates!


Historians also use the inference to the Best Explanation model which starts with available E, infers from a pool of live options what would best explain E’ given our background beliefs, then you select the best explanation which gives the best causal account of E’... then test by experimenting (scientist), or consulting evidence (historian). Historical reconstructions may fulfill some c, but not others, skill is required. But whichever explains with a higher strength of scope, then it is more likely to be true.



The Goal of History, therefore is probability, Pr, not certainty: Historical knowledge is a reconstruction related to E’ in a reasonable way. This is the situation with all of our inductive reasoning! We accept what has sufficient evidence to render it probable, guilty is guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the court of law, and so likewise in history. Thus historical truth is tested by evidence and the method is the same as it is in science: The H which best explains the evidence should be accepted. Thus the supposed “Lack of Direct Access” poses no stumbling block.




The Problem of Lack of Neutrality


Subjectivism
Recall the Relativists claim: That no historian can objectively reconstruct the past since they’re all shaped by the cultural conditioning of the present. But it’s not so important how historical knowledge was obtained. What’s important is what the content of that knowledge is & how it’s tested. And if realism is correct, & historical H square with the evidence, then cultural conditioning is secondary and may factor into H generation, but that H will succumb to objective tests! There exists a “logic of discovery” that a investigator follows in framing H. But so far as the truth of H is concerned, it doesn’t matter how H is generated. Testing H by the facts keeps subjectivism at bay.




Defending Historical Realism

Simply put, within the absence of any defeater for the basic meaning that's constrained by some text, the historian is within her rational right to affirm the meaning that's impressed upon her at the time of her reading it. Of course she could be wrong, but that implies that there's actual meaning to what she's in fact reading! And therefore interpretations of text will be in terms of plausibility, and their meaning constrained by the words used, etc. Same holds true for Artifacts, the historian just can't make up whatever she wants.
Anaxa

Con







Wow, I may have taken on more than I can handle against a philosopher of science! Let's see..



Defending Historical Relativism

The Problem of Lack of Direct Access


Post Modern Relativism

Strong Post Modern Relativism is the view that theory determines the reality. The anti-realist here claims that all observation is theory laden and theories determine reality. But this touches on a reductio ad absurdum, the same as in what Apeiron spoke of for Ontological Constructionism. So I can't defend that here.


But Weak Post Modern Relativism on the other hand is the view that the theory determines the observations of reality. For instance a baseball fan and caveman walk into a bar & see a homerun on the TV… one sees a man running for his life and another sees a win. Since these two are in completely different paradigms then we can't expect them to understand each-other. Same holds true for history.




Weltanschauung Analyses

Thesis one of Weltanschauung is the supposed view that theory-ladenness leads to historical subjectivity. Thesis two says that the theory terminology is in turn theory-dependent. Thesis three says that historical facts are also theory-dependent. These three thesis' clearly support the relativist.



Presupposition of Naturalism

Anyhow, the whole goal of Apeiron is to prove the resurrection of Christ, but naturalism rules that out and so we can't even expect to know such historical truths like that. Thus ultimately Apeiron's historical realism (the kind he wants) is undercut by the project of naturalism and history.




The Problem of Lack of Neutrality

Here I've seen no reason to think that Neutrality can be mitigated, even if Apeiron is correct in what he's said, it still doesn't follow that the historian's view of what actually happened is veiled by her linguistic and cultural upbringing. Thus relativists cannot nor should they recognize objectivity in history whatsoever.




Critique of Historical Realism



Self-Evident Autonomy of Description


That we're prima facie justified in accepting historical realism is a bit biased in the wrong direction. It is the historian who's biased towards her linguistic upbringing, cultural background and so forth, she can never get past it so there's no reason to demand history as basic.


Conclusion

Apeiron put forth a powerful case but I think he's still got some more work to do, but I'm running out of time!
Debate Round No. 2
Apeiron

Pro







Critique of Historical Relativism



The Problem of Lack of Direct Access


Post Modern Relativism

For Weak Postmodern Relativism, I may be mistaken about seeing x as a pencil but I can discover my mistakes. Texts and artifacts are reconstructions limited by data, the historian isn’t free to interpret the texts as he likes! Texts have limited meaning, as in the labels on the box of medicine (so no one’s a Post Modern Relativism here)! Texts therefore are taken as evidence, which have limited meanings that are particularly important to us.



Weltanschauung Analysis

For the first thesis of Weltanschauung, how does a different Weltanschauung correlates with each unique theory? If Weltanschauung is defined broadly, then it’s just one’s different total background knowledge & scientists do employ same theories all the same. But if Weltanschauung is defined narrowly, then it’s bizarre to suggest one group of theorists have uniquely different Weltanschauung from other theorists. Thus theory ladeness undermines objectivity in neither science nor history!


For thesis two of Weltanschauung, that theory terminology is theory-dependent, how is it the case that just because two different theories can’t disagree / agree, so the alternatives are meaningless? Does this really entail that every theory becomes true by definition and so its testing is circular? Perhaps meaning is partially determined by theory principles, but terminology in history is formulated in normal language, not in theoretical terms



For thesis three of Weltanschauung, that facts are also theory-dependent, the strong form of this view says that facts are literally determined by our Weltanschauung, which leads to solipsism. The weak form: that facts are at least determined by our Weltanschauung, can only be defended on the basis of Weltanschauung thesis' 1 – 2. A body of evidence exists to adjudicate between theories, however, and any reconstruction must make its peace with the evidence to be accepted. Thus, Post Modern Relativism's appeal to Weltanschauung Analyses is in vain



Recall that the relativist implications from indirect access to the past entails only mind-dependent historical facts: if everyone forgot x, then it wouldn’t be a fact. There is historian-dependant meaning in facts and so there's a historian-dependant history. Under this paradigm there are only un-testable historical facts: there’s no way to test x, since it’s in the past!



But the proposition, "facts have no meaning” is self refuting. A historical fact is a historical event itself or a piece of accurate information about that event. Thus a historian makes statements about facts. For instance, Lincoln’s death would’ve made an impact on the US whether anyone remembered it or not! So facts exist independently of our minds & have their impact long after they’re forgotten.





The Problem of Lack of Neutrality



Subjectivism vs. Objectivism

The relativism is giving mere superficial relativism, he’s deeply objectivist for history. In deed relativists recognize historical objectivity in three ways: 1) A common core of indisputable historical facts exist, 2) distinguishing between history & propaganda is possible, 3) criticizing poor history is possible. Let’s look at each of these in turn:


1: A Common Core of Indisputable Facts Exist

The declaration of Independence dating, Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon, the sale of Indulgences in 1517, Lincoln’s Assassination. All of these we agree on their historical accuracy. If someone said Hamlet was written at Genghis Khan’s court in Mongolia, you’d laugh at them. In fact the common core of facts can be found in Langer’s Encyclopedia of World History. If there is a common core, then the relativist claim is vitiated, facts do speak for themselves


2: Distinguishing Between History & Propaganda is Possible

Soviets used to rewrite history for their political purposes, which is what we consider propaganda. The most dangerous thing about historical relativism is its use in propaganda! For if facts have no meaning, there’s no way of protesting the propagandizing of history. Relativists therefore want to say facts do make a difference and shouldn’t be propagandized.


3: Criticizing Poor History is Possible

Velikovsky rewrote history on the basis of ET catastrophes. Now every historian, relativist or not, criticized Velikovsky, but how can they do such a thing on a relativist view? I think it’s simply obvious that any relativist who criticizes poor history, implicitly admits historical objectivity.



Mitigation of Subjectivity

Contrary to what Anaxa thinks, the lack of neutrality can be mitigated by 6 Factors:

1) Proper Historical Method
2) Public acknowledgement of one’s horizon & methodology
3) Historian’s community of Peer-review
4) Submitting hypothesis to hostile experts
5) Presence of common core
6) Serious effort at one’s detachment from bias


Karl Popper defends that peer-review and discussion is the best way out of unconscious subjectivism. Aron says that relativism transcended once the historian recognizes other views.




The Purpose of Rewriting History

Every generation there’s new sources and evidence is uncovered, there’s new appreciation of a certain form of art, music, etc. As well as new perspective on what has happened. So the rewriting of history advances our knowledge of the past as new discoveries are made.



Presuppositional Naturalism

Supernaturalism is the view that some causes are found within space-time and some outside space-time. Methodological Naturalism on the other hand entails that a historian remains agnostic when speaking professionally about these issues. She can still acknowledge that as a human being she accepts super-naturalistic explanations!


Naturalism views that all causes are only found within the space-time realm of matter and energy. So all naturalists must either deny miraculous events or deny their historicity. Here, McGullagh says that that a miracle hypothesis, H is be greater in explanatory scope and explanatory power, but less plausible and more ad hoc. But whether miracles are more ad hoc is deferred here,


http://debate.org...


And for the last round I’ll ask why the resurrection H is less plausible? But for that you'll have to recall that Baye’s Theorem calculates the probability, Pr of H given the evidence, E. And E includes our background knowledge (general evidence) and specific evidence.



Pr (H/E) =

Pr (H) * Pr (E/H)

Pr (H) * Pr (E/H) + Pr (¬H) * Pr (E/¬H)

= If 1, then H is certain given E






Defending Historical Realism


Everything Ive said so far has rebutted the claims made here by Anaxa.



Conclusion

Neither problems of the lack of direct access or lack of neutrality prevent us from learning objective history. Hence history may lead us to knowledge of God himself
Anaxa

Con

*I concede the debate, vote for Pro, he's obviously won.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Anaxa 3 years ago
Anaxa
Thank you all for the conduct votes! I think honesty is the best policy when trying to figure out truth, not just "wanting to be right."
Posted by Anaxa 3 years ago
Anaxa
malcolmxy,

The baseball fan and the caveman argument was sufficiently rebutted. And I didn't consider Apeiron's reasoning as word vomit, if you consider the substance and logic behind his arguments, it's telling.

His case responded to my arguments and he met his burden of proof just barely enough. Which is sufficient for a win. I congratulate him and he's convinced me to change my mind on historical realism.
Posted by malcolmxy 3 years ago
malcolmxy
You shouldn't have given up. Your point about the baseball fan and the caveman was about the only cogent argument made in that entire debate.

You got word-vomited into submission.

It's unfortunate, because none of Apeiron's points connected to one another, and at no point did he make a clear, concise, comprehensible case which met his burden of proof.

But, because you gave up, he won.

Oh well.
Posted by Apeiron 3 years ago
Apeiron
*But remember Methodological Naturalism doesn"t concern neutrality, just methodology.
Posted by Apeiron 3 years ago
Apeiron
oh snap, thought I had another round in there, oh well this is what I was going to say about Baye's theorem:

So, is the Resurrection Hypothesis Less Probable? Well the since the degree of probability is the level to which H is implied by E, then E is the background knowledge and specific evidence for H. And so on the naturalist"s background knowledge, the resurrection is Pr = 0, for nothing in their background knowledge alone implies the resurrection.

But many naturalistic hypothesis on that same background knowledge = 0, for nothing in their background knowledge alone implies the resurrection! Such a hypothesis" greater plausibility must derive from the special evidence itself. But here it"s hard to see how any special evidence confers a greater Pr on the negation of the resurrection hypothesis than on the affirmation of the resurrection hypothesis.
On the contrary, null-resurrection hypothesis are usually rendered less probable by the special evidence! The reason the naturalist finds the resurrection hypothesis less probable is due to the fact that "dead men don"t rise" naturally. But we agree that natural revivification has zero probability on the resurrection hypothesis as well! For natural causation is insufficient, which is irrelevant to the resurrection hypothesis since on it, God raised Christ, not nature.

Thus the resurrection hypothesis is less probable just if on naturalism"s background knowledge. Only if the naturalist has good reasons to think atheism is true, could she regard the resurrection hypothesis as improbable. Nevertheless, the objective facts may cause abandonment of Naturalism.
Yes, a historian may be so deeply prejudiced, but that"s just a fact of psychology, and psychology doesn"t determine objective history. So Naturalism or Supernaturalism doesn"t determine how one weighs the evidence. Naturalism can be held lightly & abandoned in light of powerful evidence for the resurrection hypothesis.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by qopel 3 years ago
qopel
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:00 
Reasons for voting decision: It's so tempting to vote bomb the Instigator, but I happen to care about being fair with my votes.
Vote Placed by BigSky 3 years ago
BigSky
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:51 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro was well reasoned. Con gets conduct for his fair admittance of defeat.
Vote Placed by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Pro because Con conceded. Conduct to Con because Con conceded. Interesting debate.
Vote Placed by wolfman4711 3 years ago
wolfman4711
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Nice job apeiron. anaxca conceded
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 3 years ago
1Devilsadvocate
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: Holy Sh!t. Nice job Apeiron. Concession.
Vote Placed by Typhlochactas 3 years ago
Typhlochactas
ApeironAnaxaTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con admits that Pro won.