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Theory Of Knowledge.

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Name: Sun Xing Teacher: Mr. Gardner Due Date: 23rd Oct 2003 Theory Of Knowledge Big Essay "A historian must combine the vigour of the scientist with the imagination of the artist." This sentence itself is quite a controversy and a paradox. It makes people wonder; if this is plain old history we are talking about. To enhance with our understanding, we can perhaps divide the sentence into two parts. It is easy to link history with science as they both are subject to changes when new facts are discovered; although historical accounts do not change as rapidly as scientific inventions. A historian, like a scientist, on discovery of new evidence, must fit into the big picture of previously gathered information like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. He also has to check and countercheck many times in order to increase the accuracy and to ensure authenticity of the historical account. Thus we can conclude that vigour is a "must" quality in a historian because making changes in historical documents is usually a lengthy and tedious process. So far, so good. The real difficulty lies in what follows after. How do we equate a historian with an artist? As we all know, an artist makes a living based on his creativity and imagination as he aims to create ideal yet unreal worlds to allow people to find a temporary escape from the harsh reality. ...read more.


As a historian, one must always remember to present the facts to the readers without leading them on a certain pathway or persuade them to agree with the historian, but to give the readers an opportunity to digest the facts and form an opinion of their own. Many times historians may choose to offer the readers their own interpretations on the issue, but to prevent from influencing the readers; different perspectives and viewpoints regarding the issue should be provided as well. Secondly, historians are restricted by a more specific limitation, that is the discipline of their profession which is the commitment to historical facts. As George F. Kennan has mentioned in his essay "History as "Some Kind of a Novel", the historian is not allowed to give his imagination free rein which is a right that the artists enjoy. Thus he is bound to respect the chronology of events as the historical documents reveal it, even if that chronology is contradictory and confusing. In addition, he cannot rearrange the facts and play them around for dramatic or aesthetic effect. He also has to leave the characters the way they are when he finds them and cannot make alterations or invent new characters. ...read more.


Then, the historian needs his imagination and of course logic and sense to help him understand the evidences he has gathered and fill in the bits and pieces of the complete story. George Macaulay Trevelyan, the late professor of modern history at the Cambridge University had described the best historian to be he who combined knowledge of the evidence with "the largest intellect, the warmest human sympathy and the highest imaginative powers". All three elements makes the historical event under discussion appear three-dimensional and add life to the plain facts and statistics so as to arouse reading interest of the readers, as well as increase the value of the historical account itself. Thus I conclude that a historian can be confident about his or her conclusions and at the same time be creative despite the many restraints present to restrict their writing. Of course, we as readers should keep ourselves constantly updated on events happening around us so as to keep ourselves knowledgeable and equip ourselves with the ability to identify bad historical accounts from good ones. This applies especially to students, who should keep their eyes sharpened so they can detect errors in the textbooks! :) ( 1642 words ) ...read more.

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