To what extent can disagreement aid in our understanding of history? October 2012
International School of Curacao
To what extent can disagreement aid in our understanding of history?
Disagreement has been present in the world ever since the first biotic and abiotic factors roamed the Earth. In order to understand what the question is asking, we must define its key words. Disagreement is defined as a difference in opinion and diversity. Even though the word disagreement has a negative tone, it does not necessarily have to be bad. Disagreement offers people a different point of view and can help the world’s population improve its understanding of each other. This brings me to the next key word in the question: understanding. Understanding is described as the comprehension of a certain topic and as having a mental grasp on something. People encounter disagreements during discussions, which makes the conversation richer. I find it is important, for every human being, to understand that disagreements are healthy. Without disagreement, there will be too much familiarity and similarity, and life will be lacking adventure and uncertainties. Disagreement and lack of understanding are often, if not always, seen in history. Many wars start because of a disagreement and/or because of the lack of willingness of understanding. History is defined as the study of the past. Much of the study of history is factual. Facts are statements supposedly set in stone and true. From a young age on, children are taught that facts are not to be altered. As they grow up, they find that this is false: history is not entirely set in stone. And that is exactly what this paper will be covering, with the help of Jared Diamond, Galileo Galilei, Gavin Menzies, Fritz Fischer, Charles van Doren, and Reuben Abel. Historiography is the writing of history. According to Reuben Abel, different historiographies are influenced by the history of civilization. This history of civilization is depending on climate, soil, and geography. Geography brings up another historian that helps support that disagreement aids in the understanding of history. Jared Diamond did research on why historiography is different in different continents. He published his findings in a book called “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Diamond argued that the gaps in technology and power between human societies are not caused mainly by cultural and racial differences. He states that the geography and ecology of European and Asian landmasses gave the societies there an advantage over those on other continents. Although Diamond’s findings sound realistic, his work was critiqued for ‘factual errors’. Diamond, although criticized, is important to mention in the discussion on how disagreement aids in the understanding of history. His findings may not all be correct, but some are. This shows that there were many different factors playing in the different historiographies in different continents in the world. Reuben Abel goes on by stating that the history of civilization is also dependent of race, hereditary ability, and psychological factors. Additionally, it depends on the motif of power and on the theory that history is the history of class struggle. This is an idea taking from Marxism, and the first kind of approach to history: that it is cyclical. Reuben Abel goes on by stating that historiographies should be appraised and assessed, but that there is no crucial experiment that can test the validity of a theory of history. Abel’s claim that “History is far from being exclusively scientific or factual; it is also a larger part creative” is one I can agree with. History is not just facts. Between the factual sentences, there has to be at least one sentence linking one fact to another. The main reason why Reuben Abel is important to mention in this essay about disagreement aiding the understanding of history is that humanity has not yet...