The Role of Language and Reason in History

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Discuss the roles of language and reason in history

Knower’s cannot directly observe the past. This characteristic of history opens up many questions of knowledge that are unique to it and allows reason and language to contribute to the way we interpret historical accounts and events. Language is the system of communication including symbols and words by which history is noted, written and passed down over the years. In contrast, reason is the use of our own reasoning and logic to make use the language by which history is written and communicated. It was the French Historian and Politician, Francois Guizot who said that ‘Nothing falsifies history more than logic.’ This statement emphasises the fact that although language may sometimes be a hindrance to history, we are able to use of our reasoning and logic to overcome such a hindrance and reach a more understandable interpretation of the historical account or event being examined. However, one must acknowledge the fact that without language there would be no history as the essence of history is humans’ ability to communicate their opinions, views and facts about certain happenings and occurrences and this is done using language.

In order to fully understand the roles of language and reason with regards to history one must first understand the relationship between language and reason. Language is the core of reason. Like language acquisitions, reasoning involves a continual interplay between the particular and the general. We experience the world as particular instances of things and we generalize these instances into categories to which we give names. In terms of history, we utilise reason in attempt to understand and interpret language. For example, analysing historical sources, when examining a source we may relate certain words within the text to certain categories or ideas and interpret the source accordingly.

Reasoning and language can both be seen as Ways of Knowledge in history. Studying history...
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