Geographical and historical terminology for people

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Ralin
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by Ralin » 2019-03-01 06:10am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-28 05:02am
The recognition of the value of knowledge in society and the idea that knowledge is in principle accessible to each human deciding to learn, are pre-requisites for the development of a scientific method.
How many scientific methods do you think there are?

That's not sarcasm. I'm unclear whether that's a distinction you're making or just a wording thing.

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K. A. Pital
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-03-01 06:35am

The refining of the scientific method is inevitably going to be affected by the cultural factors of the nation that develops it, and the philosophical advances behind it, that can lay the foundation.

Therefore if we are speaking of alternative histories, there can be several scientific methods, each one for each cultural background that it originates in.

The refining of the scientific method was tied to philosophical currents that it wa connected to. We operate with a method originating probably with Descartes (you can argue for a different origin point, if you fancy), but also deeply influenced by the preceding Aristotelian, „classic“ natural philosophy. Being freed from ontology, it has developed further, but it is still far from finishing its course of development.

Obviously the logic of Western thinking permeated the philosophical foundations of this method, making it historically unique. By introducing alternative historical scenarios, we postulate that it is not unique and could have developed from different foundations, meaning that while it would share the core traits of essential importance with our „scientific method“, it could also be thought of as distinct from it, with its unique traits.

Even language alone would impact the way this method develops. And as we are talking about developing the method, it is certain that from general foundations I named above it would undergo its own, unique proto-scientific development stages, which will be different from the stages underwent by the European scientific method.

End result would be very similar in essence, but different in origins and developmental forms, if you understand what I am saying. Hence, a method.
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ray245
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by ray245 » 2019-03-02 06:44pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-28 05:02am
Europe did not universally develop an idea of stages either until a very late stage. Voltaire, for all his contributions, did not interpret history in terms of formations, but rather only as nations and epochs. Which, however, was already different in that it emphasized the history of customs, arts, commerce and other aspects. The ideas of modernization and history as a staged process were not universally accepted in the West either, with plenty non-teleological works coexisting with the more cyclical views (e think of Spengler). A more materialistic view in the sense of rejection of supernatural and striving to improve the quality of sources behind the historical narrative (which also relates to Voltaire, for example, who was instrumental to shaping modern Western historiography). The mythological is a conflation of untrue (eg supernatural) with a narrative that purports to tell history. Note how myths are, the early stage of event-reflection by the mind, likewise universal and existing in many cultures simultaneously even without any contact between them. And how progression from inclusion of the mythological into what constitutes „real history“ towards a more facts-and-sources based historical narrative occurred in likewise separate civilizations.
The idea of a "middle ages" was developed before Voltaire. How people define the idea of a middle period does vary, but the idea of a renaissance as a period of re-discovery has an massive impact on the history of Europe in contrast to the historiographical traditions of other civilisations.

True, there had been incidents of vulgar application of Western methods - it does not mean that if China arrived at other methods, its own methods, that would occupy the same role in human investigative activity that we call „science“, they would not be applied in a vulgar fashion themselves. The drive for knowledge is a universally present feature of civilization, as civilization itself relies on the accumulation of knowledge. From these fundamental processes we can infer that each civilization would arrive at some form of science, the more it developed. The fact that China had no idea of „Middle Ages“ is unsurprising: Europe had self-defined this period as „middle ages“ purely out of chronological reasons. China had a different system and it could have perhaps never developed a view of „Middle Ages“ if it industrialized first. But it would call the pre-industrial age something, we just do not know what. The general drive for factual knowledge accumulation was evident, the Yongle Dadian is a prime example of the fact that with the growth and rising complexity of civilization‘s social and economic structures the accumulation of knowledge plays an important role and will happen; and will progress from pure myth to fact, and also later from a form of metaphysics, the strive for universal concepts, towards the materialistic concepts that originate due to the scientific exploration process itself.
Accumulations of knowledge doesn't make it a science as we understand it to mean today. How a person investigate the world around them depends on the society they lived in. The "scientists" and their role within their own society matters. How would a society separate the distinction of being a philosopher from being a scientist? That is not something that is an universal as we like to think.

The influence of colonialism has profoundly reshaped societies around the world, even those that were never colonised. Societies created new terminology for science and scientists in response to the pressure of "modernisation" around the world. We should not ignore the impact if we are trying to study the history of science.
I am not drawing equivalence. I said that it is the first stage where knowledge accumulation starts to shed the supernatural, and operate more on the basis of fact. It is a long way from that to the modern scientific method. But the idea that such a method could, even in pure theory, only be developed by Europeans is racist nonsense. Of course a movement towards the scientific method in other nations would look different than of that in Europe, but since the accumulation of knowledge is a process of reflecting actual material conditions, it would still happen one way or the other. You can develop certain concepts to solve practical problems of a civilization, so it is happening in reality. Also as you know, Chinese mathematicians in the late middle Ages started to reframe the thought in terms of general solutions as opposed to individual solutions, which reflects a process that is undeniably a feature of the advancement of abstract thinking.
I am not making the argument that only Europeans can develop the scientific method as we understand it, if that's what you are really thinking I am trying to say. Rather, I am saying the development of the scientific method cannot be removed from the culture it came from. Race or ethnicity is irrelevant, the key issue is the culture itself. A spread of the scientific method across the world is tied with the adoption of the "scientific culture".That "scientific culture" can be modified and adapted to local context and needs, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the roots of how that culture came about.

I am not bold enough to make the claim that every culture would develop a scientific method. That's like saying every society would develop a monetary economy, when we know some cultures would actively reject and resist it. There's a difference between saying a culture develop certain practices that resemble aspects of the modern day scientific method as we understood it, but it is risky to make the assumption that those practices will be further developed into a scientific method. I think what you are doing is drawing too many assumption from the perspective of a western intellectual tradition, which sees the development of the scientific method as some sort of natural end point.

I am saying we need to break away from making such assumptions, because this is a product of our western intellectual heritage. We will become far too eager to look at a wider variety of society and focus too much attention on how they are "becoming similar" to us, when it could develop into something entirely different.

I mentioned above that concepts such as Marxism arrived very late in European history - it is an outcome of a lot of preceding philosophical developments and thus even in Europe itself this view was far from being universally accepted in historiography. Note that fascination with decline permeated European works (Gibbon, Spengler).

In essence though both China and Europe had some unique experiences that drove the development of pre-scientific and partially scientific concepts in their own ways. However, all of this relates to a general process of accumulation of knowledge. The recognition of the value of knowledge in society and the idea that knowledge is in principle accessible to each human deciding to learn, are pre-requisites for the development of a scientific method. Europe had some other unique factors related to Antiquity and its powerful philosophical thrust, that helped to originate the methods earlier, but it is by no way an exclusive ability of the Europeans to systematically refine the process of accumulation of knowledge until it can be called science.

This is all I wanted to say.
Those philosophical developments are rooted within a specific culture. We cannot disentangle culture in our attempt to find a broad, overly generalised picture of human societal development across the world. That's not how good history works. I find it uncomfortable to be too entangled into a grand narrative of human development, especially when the foundation for constructing such a narrative is based on the western European historical experience.

Again, I think you are confusing culture with ethnicity or race. I think it is possible for a non-European culture to develop a scientific method, but the end of the day we cannot ignore the fact that the scientific method as we understood it to is more profoundly shaped by the intellectual culture of Europe ( dealing with a wider global world) than anywhere else. Other cultures and civilisations played a crucial part in this process, such as the preservation of many philosophical texts thanks to the efforts of Arabic scholars, but that in itself did not result in the development of the scientific method in the Arab world or in China.

More importantly, the adoption of the "western European" approach of knowledge accumulation by the rest of the world is in itself influenced by the colonisation of the world. Rivalling knowledge accumulation methodology were either eliminated or effectively abandoned wholesale with the spread of colonialism. I am saying people today, regardless of where we are from in the world, are the inheritors of the "western European" methodology.
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by ray245 » 2019-03-02 07:09pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-03-01 06:35am
The refining of the scientific method is inevitably going to be affected by the cultural factors of the nation that develops it, and the philosophical advances behind it, that can lay the foundation.

Therefore if we are speaking of alternative histories, there can be several scientific methods, each one for each cultural background that it originates in.

The refining of the scientific method was tied to philosophical currents that it wa connected to. We operate with a method originating probably with Descartes (you can argue for a different origin point, if you fancy), but also deeply influenced by the preceding Aristotelian, „classic“ natural philosophy. Being freed from ontology, it has developed further, but it is still far from finishing its course of development.

Obviously the logic of Western thinking permeated the philosophical foundations of this method, making it historically unique. By introducing alternative historical scenarios, we postulate that it is not unique and could have developed from different foundations, meaning that while it would share the core traits of essential importance with our „scientific method“, it could also be thought of as distinct from it, with its unique traits.

Even language alone would impact the way this method develops. And as we are talking about developing the method, it is certain that from general foundations I named above it would undergo its own, unique proto-scientific development stages, which will be different from the stages underwent by the European scientific method.

End result would be very similar in essence, but different in origins and developmental forms, if you understand what I am saying. Hence, a method.
I've missed this earlier. The heart of my disagreement with your view is that I find you are beholden to the idea that every method of knowledge accumulation will eventually lead to the development of a "scientific method". I think we need to accept or be open to the possibility that a variety of knowledge accumulation methods will not develop further into a "scientific method". We have to consider the idea that the purpose of a knowledge accumulation method can be drastically different across different societies. For the societies, the impetus to develop those methods further into a scientific method may simply not be there.

If we try and look for similarities amongst the knowledge accumulation methods across different cultures, then that is what you will end up with. This is because you are looking for similarities in the first place. Your approach is similar to the Needham's approach towards studying Chinese science, which is something that has been criticised by his successors like Roel Sterckx. It becomes far too easy to ignore how the different methods can be radically different from one another and ignoring the intellectual society has shaped such methods in radically different ways. This is something that has been mentioned by Roel Sterckx before.
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-03-03 08:57am

ray245 wrote:For the societies, the impetus to develop those methods further into a scientific method may simply not be there.
I don't disagree with the idea that such stagnant societies could exist, but saying this is a universal view rather than an unlikely exception, would mean that the accumulation of knowledge in most societies would never reach a phase similar to modern science we have now. And this, by extension, means that there is no actual need for "science" in a vast majority of societies? Which means that the change in it has stopped forever. But this is very unlikely. We do know, and not just from Marxist historiography but from all more or less factually sound historiographic works, that the changes in material conditions and the change in social relations in a certain society continue to happen, with very few exceptions.

Because there have not been "total societies" (as total as world capitalism is now) before our age, there was always a movement of ideas and shifting of development centres between territories, and as such, even if some civilizations would stagnate and collapse, this would not necessarily mean that the accumulation of knowledge would cease to be, because in time, either through re-evaluation of older ideas or through adoption of these ideas in other societies the process will go on.

Eventually, either from abroad or from within society itself the material conditions and social relations would demand something like science. And it would be rather strange to say it would not develop.

The perception of other / non-European societies as static and unable to change and produce own ideas, because they lack the "need" for it, is itself a view that owes much to colonialism. The recognition that factors of social change which are fundamental, independent of both race and culture (like the need to organize material production), are present in many societies, is important. Only very small and isolated societies in areas where the twin factors of relative abundance and isolation never forces them to undergo the transition from hunter-gatherer groups to settled groups can completely remain static for millenia; most other societies, once the transition has started, undergo change.
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Re: Geographical and historical terminology for people

Post by ray245 » 2019-03-03 11:07am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-03-03 08:57am
I don't disagree with the idea that such stagnant societies could exist, but saying this is a universal view rather than an unlikely exception, would mean that the accumulation of knowledge in most societies would never reach a phase similar to modern science we have now. And this, by extension, means that there is no actual need for "science" in a vast majority of societies? Which means that the change in it has stopped forever. But this is very unlikely. We do know, and not just from Marxist historiography but from all more or less factually sound historiographic works, that the changes in material conditions and the change in social relations in a certain society continue to happen, with very few exceptions.
That's not my point at all. I am saying there is no universal view in the first place. At the same time, we should not ignore the fact that the most non-European societies did not develop a scientific method as we understood it to be. They have a method for studying the world around them, but there were a variety of reasons as to why they did not develop a scientific method from that.

The adoption of the scientific network by non-western European societies was a result of strong external pressure, which was extremely disruptive to the traditional intellectual societies. Which historiographical works are you talking about?

Because there have not been "total societies" (as total as world capitalism is now) before our age, there was always a movement of ideas and shifting of development centres between territories, and as such, even if some civilizations would stagnate and collapse, this would not necessarily mean that the accumulation of knowledge would cease to be, because in time, either through re-evaluation of older ideas or through adoption of these ideas in other societies the process will go on.

Eventually, either from abroad or from within society itself the material conditions and social relations would demand something like science. And it would be rather strange to say it would not develop.
Yes, there were a wide variety of ideas that developed in response to the change in society, but that does not mean it is a linear progression towards "science". Historians of science like Thomas Kuhn have made strong arguments as to why we should reject the idea of linear progressiveness in the history of science, and he emphasis on the importance of paradigm shift in the history of science. The ability of an society to develop a paradigm shift not something that all societies would be able to do. The scientific method is not just about developing a methodology to understand the world, but a method that also exist to disprove existing notions about the world.


The perception of other / non-European societies as static and unable to change and produce own ideas, because they lack the "need" for it, is itself a view that owes much to colonialism. The recognition that factors of social change which are fundamental, independent of both race and culture (like the need to organize material production), are present in many societies, is important. Only very small and isolated societies in areas where the twin factors of relative abundance and isolation never forces them to undergo the transition from hunter-gatherer groups to settled groups can completely remain static for millenia; most other societies, once the transition has started, undergo change.
I think the idea that all societies should and want to develop ideas that becomes ever close to "science" is a product of colonialism. The spread of the scientific method across the world is often tied hand in hand with racist ideology of "civilising" the "non-civilised" world. Societies that did adopt the scientific method did not merely do so out of their own internal need, but rather adopted it as part of the process of avoiding being colonised once again.

Needing to be seen as a "developed" country in order to be recognised internationally is something that we cannot ignore. Cultures that rejected "development" are treated by people from more "developed" communities as primitive or "inferior". That is the racist legacy of colonialism that remained with us. Without the pressure to conform with an international "standard" of respectable countries, not all countries will feel a need to embrace the scientific method to the same degree as people in the "west".
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