Discuss with relation to history

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This statement is false in my opinion as distinctions can be seen between what is true and false. It may be hard to see the differences in relation to history because everything is from the past including any evidence. History can be supported through evidence from primary (interviews, letters, and diaries) and secondary sources (photographs, artefacts and other records from the past). Firstly, the definition of true must be clarified: It is a fundamental belief in the subject of Theory of Knowledge (ToK) which is built upon sensory perception, language, emotion and reason – known as the four ways of knowing (WoK).

To argue this statement, examples such as the holocaust and the history of Australia will be explored. As mentioned before, Theory of Knowledge is based on four ways of knowing which are reason, emotion, language and sensory perception. In history all of these are used to find ‘truths’. For example, language and sensory perception are used when studying artefacts, photographs (observation) or historical records such as diary entries. However, language holds limitations as it changes over time and some of the language used in the past cannot be understood by present historians therefore historians have limited sources to support a hypothesis.

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As history involves the actions of human beings, historians need emotion to question people’s behaviour in the past. Empathy is not one of the WOKs but it is also very important as historians need to understand people’s motivations and goal for actions they have taken. Finally, reason is used to draw ideas and suggestions together to draw a conclusion – to present a truth. The Holocaust (World War 2) when almost six million Jews were killed is known to be one of the most tragic events in history. There are many photographs and historical records providing evidence for this event.

So this event can be classified as a historical truth. However, there are people known as ‘Post modernists’ who believe that the holocaust never happened. Unlike Australian history where there is more than one past, it can be said that post modernists are wrong/false in this situation due to the vast amount of evidence which supports the event actually taking place. There are also confirmations from victims of the holocaust (primary source: diaries and interviews). Post modernists/Holocaust deniers’ intention is to hide the fact that the Nazis ever attacked the Jews.

From an outsider’s point of view, this is a biased argument. Like this, many peoples are influenced to have a biased opinion because of their government’s ideas and judgement on a particular event. Another example is Australian history. This includes the indigenous and the non-indigenous people’s perspective. Particularly concerning the issue around the celebration of Australia Day celebrated on the 26th, January being also Invasion day for the aboriginals. For Europeans this day is known as a new beginning and celebrated as a good event where people come together to celebrate being Australian.

However, for the aboriginals this is a day of loss (land ownership, culture, family) when their rightful country was stolen from them. The history of aboriginals having been on Australia dates back a long time compared to the new Australians and this has been supported through scientific evidence such as the existence of humans identified through past skulls and signs of villages/tribes that have been found from years before the First fleet arrived at Sydney Cove (1788, 26th January). This specific example shows how there can be two histories for the same event that has taken place in history even if one party was there before the other.

It is important to acknowledge the different histories but we need to say that there is a historical truth. There is no single right or wrong history for Australia; both the histories are considered true because both the event of ‘finding new land’ and ‘Invasion’ took place but the opposing parties have different perspectives which must be respected and recognized. From the examples it is possible to say that the method of history involves observation, hypothesizing, testing using evidence and finally arriving at a conclusion.

This method is used in many cases to arrive at a point where we can say whether something is true or false. “A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false. ” (Harold Pinter) I agree with this claim because we cannot say for sure when something is definitely true; we can only suggest that it is true and provide evidence to support a claim. In reality what we believe is true could actually be false but since we have supporting evidence and faith in our claim it will be considered to be true.

It is important to distinguish between what is true and what is false because if we do not, then we will be saying that everything is possible and we would not know our past – If we do not understand our past, we cannot explain who we are. In this instance it is vital to know whether something is true or not. The idea of truth is a hard concept because we cannot certainly say that something is true but merely believe it is because of evidence provided and through the four ways of knowing. The example of Australian history provides indication that there may be two or more histories which are still true because of different perspectives.

But in the example of the holocaust, there are two sides to the argument but one is definitely more believable than the other so we can rule out that: The perspective of Post modernists (biased opinion) is actually false even if they believe that it is true. This example shows that a person’s view on history may be biased because of higher authorities who can shape and change the belief of the community to support their claims. In conclusion, I believe there are distinctions between what is true and false. This idea is very important especially when wanting to know about the past.

If we do not address certain truths in history we will be suggesting that anything can/could have happened – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). We need to know our past because we can learn valuable lessons especially from our mistakes.

Sources: 1. http://www. creativespirits. info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline (aboriginal history) 2. http://www. ushmm. org/museum/exhibit/focus/maps/googleearth. php (holocaust picture) 3. http://www. readengage. com/articles/soc6. php (Australia day/Invasion day picture).


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