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The Landscape Of History Essay

1627 words - 7 pages

In The Landscape of History, John Lewis Gaddis makes a cohesive argument concerning about the debate over the objectivity of truth by stating “objectivity as a consequence is hardly possible, and that there is, therefore, no such thing as truth (Gaddis 29). The question for objective history has long been debated by numerous historians, and the differing viewpoints of history have led to a transition in our ways of thinking in the modern world. Ultimately, the question that this paper focuses on is: to what extent is history objective? Along with this, the relation to historical consciousness and the challenges of living in modernity will also be assessed. This paper will analyze the texts of John Lewis Gaddis, Nietzsche and the Birth of Tragedy, Modernity and Historical Vision, Living in Modernity, and Hermeneutics. Finally, the paper will argue that history is not largely objective, and is fundamentally shaped through the historian’s subjectivity.
John Lewis Gaddis, in his book, The Landscape of History, generates a strong argument for the historical method by bringing together the multiple standpoints in viewing history and the sciences. The issue of objective truth in history is addressed throughout Gaddis’s work. In general, historians learn to select the various events that they believe to be valid. Historians must face the fact that there is an “accurate” interpretation of the past ceases to exist because interpretation itself is based on the experience of the historian, in which people cannot observe directly (Gaddis 10). Historians can only view the past in a limited perspective, which generates subjectivity and bias, and claiming a piece of history to be “objective” is simplistic. Seeing the world in a multidimensional viewpoint can provide a better understanding of the history of our world, but historians can never utilize all the possible views of the past. In addition, historians can only express history by representing the past, as a cartographer does with aping the landscape. The past for historians is simply out of our reach, and yet, in a sense, the past is vital to the human and historical consciousnesses, allowing us to predict the future as we live in the present. The unreachable history leads Gaddis to state that history is “inaccessible to us: we cannot relive, retrieve, or rerun it as we might some laboratory experiment or computer simulation” (Gaddis 3). History is unlike the experimental sciences, which require the discovery of empirical evidence to support an assumption; it involves the “interdependency of variables” (Gaddis 55). The past and representing it to reality were thought differently between the “reductionist” and “ecological” historians, where reductionism embraces independent, objective truths, by breaking down history to its smallest parts and the ecological state that these “parts” in history are all interrelated, a sense of a “web-like” thinking. In an essence, history, in the perspective of Gaddis,...

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