Monday, June 13, 2011

Towards A Deductive Approach to History

   History presents many problems to the historian. Firstly, how does the historian know, that what he knows is true? Second, how can the historian certainly discover past events? And thirdly, how is the historian supposed to do research?  All these questions can be answered only by a recourse to deduction.
   First, what is deduction? Deduction is the method of reasoning opposed to the current mode of reasoning in history. More precisely, deduction is the type of reasoning wherein the truth values of the premises necessarily imply the truth value of the conclusion.  This is opposed to the current inductive method of historiography. Now, the inductive method, is a type of reasoning where the truth value of the premises is related probabilistically to the conclusion. In the first mode, the evidential relations are ones of certainty, and in the second (inductive) mode, the evidential relations are ones of probability. So if your premises are true in a deductive argument, then the conclusion is certainly true. But if your premises are just probably true, then they are inductive, and so the conclusion is only likely.
   It is evident that if history is to be probabilistic, then the historian is faced with the problem of how he certainly knows what he does. The inductive argument, due to its probable nature, is unable to encompass every instance of a class of things. If I say that all doves are white, then this statement could not be an probabilistic one, since the statement is about the certain totality of doves and to know all doves are x, is to have a truth probability of 100%. But to have 100% certainty is against the nature of probable conclusions which can only very from .0001-.9999 integrals of certitude. The contrary is true of the deductive argument. But the whole reason for history is to know the totality of all particular events inasmuch as these occurred. So the inductive method is not a useful historical method, since if a method can fulfill the purpose of a science, then it is useful, but induction doesn't fulfill the reason for history, so it isn't useful by simple modus tollens. But again, if something impedes you in the attainment of a goal, then it is a problem. But induction impedes the goal of finding every past event, so finally induction is a problem for the historian.  But if induction is ruled out, what other choice do we have? In fact, we have only one other choice and this is the method of deduction. Deduction, as was explained, takes certain premises and argues toward certain conclusions. As such, it is possible to deduce statements that apply to all members of a class of things. These statements are called "universal". And since deduction can do this, and since history consists in the aim for the universal, then deduction is the best method for doing history. And for much the same reasons, deduction is also the most useful historical method. Having established this, we have also found the answer to the first problem of the historian, "how do I know what I know is true?" And here we answer that since deduction is a way of knowing, and since it establishes certain conclusions, we can conclude that it establishes knowledge and certain conclusions. But all conclusions are a type of knowledge -since conclusions are known and everything known is knowledge and therefore deduced conclusions are knowledge and further are the best kind of knowledge; they are certainly true statements.
   What I would now like to share with you are some of the fruits of deductive history. Now in teaching and learning, it is meet to proceed from what you know more to what you know less. I personally, know more about American history than anything else, so I begin my analysis from that subject. The analysis deduces several new conclusions from several old facts. The first fact is that all english national projects were executed through the agency of Elizabeth I, the second is that all English merchants were the proximate executors of these projects (Sir Francis Drake for instance), and the last fact is that, some puritans were English merchants. It follows then, that some puritans executed Elizabeth's will.  More controversial theses can be proved presently.The first premise is that all white people didn't like slaves, the second is that some white people were slaves, and so the conclusion is that some slaves didn't like slaves. This is highly surprising because most people tend to see the slave class as homogeneous in both its attitudes as well as its racial makeup. But even now, in high school texts, this idea has been effectively combated for instance, slaves coming from one African kingdom frequently disliked slaves from another and slave-on-slave hatred is proved again from a different premise (if you think that only blacks were slaves). Yet another thesis can be derived about the class-conflicts of American history. For instance, All high officeholders were rich men, all rich men engrossed land, so all high elected officials engrossed land -something that people generally don't see in the character of democratic government, yet such were the politician's actions. For a final controversial thesis, I would argue that black men had important social functions in colonial new England. According to some texts, all new england men were powerful patriarchs who transacted the important work of the society while their wives transacted the domestic work. But some males in new england were black (since there were some black slaves -mainly butlers -who resided in new england), so some blacks transacted socially important work. This and all the other conclusions which have been derived, are absolutely demonstrated and may be called apodicitic knowledge.
   What then, is to guide the historian's research -our last query.  Now no historian can escape having a point a view because if he tried to argue against having a point of view, he would be taking a point of view. But a point of view, taken as a preconceived guide, is essentially a research paradigm. So no historian can escape having a research paradigm. Further every research paradigm should be useful and as we saw earlier, the most useful thing is that which does not impede the approach towards the goal. But as we saw above, deduction is the most useful method. So we know that deduction is useful, however we cannot be sure that it is a research paradigm, even though all research paradigms are useful. So then how do we solve this logical problem? The solution is that since there are only two choices between useful methods, induction and deduction, and since induction is not useful, clearly only deduction exists in the category of "useful methods", at least for history. Hence all research paradigms in history must be deductive in character.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Live Blogging: A Modern Manual of Scholastic Philosophy (chapter 1, part 3)

   Once again I return to the work and pleasure of studying philosophy. In this part, our author indicates that the process of abstraction (of breaking up ideas into its most universal and simplest parts) cannot go on infinitely. At some point an idea is no longer explained by anything else but rather explains all things. When an idea reaches this level it is called a principle. A principle is also called a reason.  One must withdraw in awestruck realization at the method of this treatise since it is, practicing what it teaches while it teaches it -namely abstraction and synthesis. And since anything that repeats is called consistent one must admire the author's consistency. But I digress, continuing on, philosophy is the use of simple reasons to explain everything. The first knowledge that is attained by a human being (that is in his childhood) is spontaneous, that is,  the sense organs are stimulated by natural things and this begets knowledge. When the will controls the other faculties of the human, so as to focus its power on abstraction, and the mind abstracts and then unites the abstracted ideas, then we have formed a particular science. But the particular sciences are also analysis of objects under a special form. But how can something be both "analysis" and "synthesis"? Perhaps a sum of ideas is being subtracted from some larger whole. Also, since this process of analysis and synthesis is frequent, it happens that there are frequently many sciences being created.  The mind however, wishes to unify the results of the particular sciences and to explain them by the simplest principles. Wherefore arises the use of philosophy. But again how can philosophy -synthesis -be an explanan of the simplest principles -analysis?
  All things have three qualities in common, quantity, movement, and substance. These triple objects form the basis for what is called the most general philosophy. Philosophy may be defined as the science of things through its simplest and most general causes.  Or what is the same thing, philosophy is the science of all through the simplest reasons. Philosophy as science is opposed to spontaneous knowledge -and what comes to the same, is opposed to the knowledge of the man of the street. But if that is true, and the very beginnings of all science lay in spontaneous knowledge, then philosophy is opposed to itself which is contradictory. It is also against belief as well as uncertainty. Indeed science implies certainty. St. Thomas Aquinas says that if we have a reason why and how something is, then we have certain knowledge of the thing. Every science gives all the reasons for an object considered from a certain P.O.V. So all science is synthetic. Philosophy regards again, the sum total of objects. The formal object of philosophy is simple while the material object of philosophy is indeed all objects. Philosophy is truly science in the highest degree -science that penetrates all the way to the bottom.
   Several things appears evident from what has been written. First, it seems that if  all thoughts are subject to uncertainty, and all analytical or synthetic ideas are thoughts, then all philosophy (which as we saw is either synthetic or analytic) is open to uncertainty.  Second, if all thoughts are gained through sensual experience of the natural world, and since no two person's experiences are alike, then there must be a gargantuan host of philosophies -at least as many as there are people.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Live Blogging: A Modern Manual of Scholastic Philosophy (chapter 1, part deux)

  I back again, on the same chapter from yesterday, so to immediately move forward, the thing which distinguishes thought from anything else is the simplicity and universality of its ideas. That is, the abstractness, and extension of ideas are necessary conditions of thought and probably are sufficient conditions too. All men have this ability, to consider a thing in separate notions and this ability distinguishes men from animals. Further, this ability is wholly wanting to animals, all intellectual acts are accompanied with it, and it is THE distinctive feature of intelligence. From the fact that all men can abstract, and from the fact that this ability is wholly wanting to animals, I dare say that we have a biconditional statement here implying that man and only man has the ability to abstract. And continuing, since all intellectual acts are apparently abstract acts, and all abstract acts are human, then all intellectual acts are human (but how then are we to explain the intellectual acts of angels? -this we shall endeavor to uncover later). Presently our interests lay elsewhere. To treat further of the idea, the abstract idea is the simple idea and vice versa, and all extended ideas are comprehended if and only if, comprehended ideas are extended ones (that is, comprehension=extension in meaning). There is an inverse proportion between the comprehension of an idea and the simplicity of an idea. For instance, an idea about red tomatoes is applicable to any red tomato, whether it be bruised, soft or hard, etc. But the less simple idea about red small tomatoes is much more specific -hence the more ideas make up a concept (the greater the comprehension) the less the extension (or application/universality). From this I will tentatively state that if an idea is of high extension, then it is of low comprehension, and that if an idea is of low extension, then it is of high comprehension. But is this not contradictory: (-e-->c), & (c-->-e)? How do we resolve this problem if it is a problem? Finally, it is obvious how we must abstract/analyze things into simple ideas before comprehending them into complex ideas in order to understand anyone thing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Live Blogging: A Modern Manual of Scholastic Philosophy

  As great an admirer of the Scholastics as I would have no choice but to live blog the teachings of this wonderful book by Cardinal Mercier. Let us dispense with pleasantries however, and move directly to the meat of the work.
  The first chapter of the book is entitled, "The Introduction to Philosophy" (also note the work's wide address -although called a "Manuel of Scholastic Philosophy" it addresses itself to both the seminary student and the wider public). So lets begin -the book starts by saying that some argue that the whole field of certain and verifiable knowledge is rightfully monopolized by the special sciences (physics, math, chemistry, history, etc.). Indeed, since advanced instruments have sharpened our perceptions, we have been able to multiply the number of sciences so as to take up the whole of what can be studied. At best what remains of philosophy can only be shadowy or unverifiable fancies. Here though, the author makes an interesting word choice -that is he uses the word analysis. And later we find that analysis means "to break down ideas". So if this is true, the author seems to characterize modern positive science as sciences which primarily break down "synthetic" ideas.  Continuing on, philosophy however does not want to be another science besides the other sciences but it aspires to a place above and after the aforementioned studies. Fascinatingly, the author further describes philosophy as a science which seeks to understand the objects of the other sciences in an ultimate way, inquiring into their relations and connections, and proceeding from thence, to conclusions of universal applicability and to inscrutable ideas (note that even philosophy, is supposed to be analytic, for whatever is inscrutable cannot be further analyzed).  Philosophy is the search for the highest causes of things. More will be said of this chapter later.