GDG- Killing Lincoln

joadx1 at netscape.net joadx1 at netscape.net
Sun Jan 15 20:49:36 CST 2012



 Let's try to get at this from a different angle.  Let's take the words quoted below: 
"The perception of the facts can be faulty and difficult to get  accurately 
but not to get the  perception right in no way alters the  facts.
 
Two people can witness the same traffic accident and give  different 
stories of it.  The different stories in no way alters the events  of the 
accident."




Now, here is the problem of the historian, of every historian.  The historian only has access to those witnesses and their written testimony, not to the actual events.  And, as you also say,
eye-witness testimony is notoriously unreliable.  The events described by the witnesses stand as something along the lines of what Immanual Kant called a "ding an sich," that is, as "things in themselves."  
But such factual things in themselves (events) are not directly available to the historian (just as Kant's ding an sich" is never directly available to perception or cognition), who only has their constructions, 
in the form of evidence.  

Now, as I have indicated earlier today, a very prominent point of view today is that since the event is never directly available and all one can do is assess and interpret textual evidence, 
there really is no underlying historical ding an sich.  Personally, I am opposed to, and have opposed, that notion.  But neither can I claim to have any direct access to historical events.  
There is only the evidence, and the kind of historian that I favor bases his or her interpretations and assessments of that evidence on the foundation of probability or potentiality,
a foundation whose persuasiveness is tied to the most evidence.  But evidential potentiality is all the historian has; never the actuality of the "pure" event.




 


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