University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Where does a claim for the necessity of historical knowledge lead in the human sciences?

Where does a claim for the necessity of historical knowledge lead in the human sciences?

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lauren Kassell.

This paper will take up some of the arguments of Being Human: Historical Knowledge and the Creation of Human Nature (Manchester University Press, 2007). I wish to argue that historical knowledge in any science with ‘the human’ as its subject is necessary – not simply interesting, useful or decorative. There are two principal themes; for both there is a large literature, but perhaps historians of science have not appreciated their implications. First, human self-knowledge is ‘reflexive’, that is, changing knowledge changes the manner in which we are human, and this implies that the subject matter of the human sciences has an inescapably historical nature. Second, there are different kinds of knowledge for different purposes, and for certain purposes historical knowledge is necessary, and (say) biological knowledge cannot be substituted for it. Developing these themes, I conclude that ‘the history of the human sciences’ is an irreducible dimension of science. Whether the arguments I make also apply to the history of the natural sciences is a somewhat separate, and complex, question, but it is one which greatly affects how we write about the natural science approach to ‘the human’.

Suggested reading: Roger Smith, Being Human: Historical Knowledge and the Creation of Human Nature (Manchester University Press, 2007), esp. ch. 2 and pp. 114-21. For an elaboration of the latter set of pages, which is particularly relevant to an HPS audience, see ‘Does Reflexivity Separate the Human Sciences from the Natural Sciences?’, in special issue on reflexivity, ed. Roger Smith, History of the Human Sciences, 18(4) (2005): 1-25.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.

 

© 2006-2019 Talks.cam, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity