Full text: Expansion, Stagnation und Demokratie - 1982 Heft 2 (2)

dimension of the processes and findings of research, and the other, the
consequences which may be claimed to derive from this for the
historian's subjective behaviour. To put it simply, one is about the
partisanship of the facts, the other about that of people.
At one extreme of the flrst spectrum there is the general, and by now
virtually uncontroversial, proposition that there can be no such thing as
a purely objective and value-free science; at the other there is the
proposition that everything about science, from its procedures to its
concrete findings and the theories into which these are grouped, is
primarily to be seen as having some specific political (or, more gener-
ally, ideological) function or purpose, associated with some specific
social or political group or Organization. Thus the main significance of
the helio-centric astronomy of the 16-17th Century would not be that
they were "more true" than the geocentric ones, but that they provided a
legitimation for absolute monarchy ("le roi soleil"). Though this might
sound a reductio ad absurdum of this position, let us not forget that
most of us have on occasion taken a hardly less extreme view when
discussing, say, the various aspects of genetics and ethology favoured
by National Socialism. The possible truths of various hypotheses in
these fields seemed at the time to be much less important than their use
for the horrible political purposes of the regime of Adolf Hitler. Even
today there are many who refuse to accept research into possible racial
differences within the human race, or who reject any findings tending to
demonstrate inequalities between various human groups, on analogous
grounds.
The nuances of the second spectrum ränge equally widely. At one
extreme there is the barely controversial proposition that the scientist, a
child of his or her time, reflects the ideological and other preconcep-
tions of his/her milieu and historically or socially specific experiences
and interests. At the other there is the view that we must not merely be
Willing to subordinate our science to the requirements of some Organiza¬
tion or authority, but should actively favour this Subordination. Except
insofar as we make purely psychological statements about scientists,
spectrum 2 derives from spectrum 1. Men are or ought to be partisan in
their attitude to the sciences, because the sciences are themselves
partisan. It is also possible, though not certain, that each position on
spectrum 2 corresponds to a position on spectrum 1, and may be
regarded as corollary of it. Hence it will be convenient in the following
discussion to concentrate on "partisanship" as a subjective attitude of,
or imperative for, historians.
Nevertheless, one important proposition about "objective" partisan¬
ship must first be made. It is that partisanship in science (using the
word in the general sense of the German "Wissenschaft") does not rest
on disagreement about verifled facts, but about their selection and
combination, and about what may be inferred from them2. It takes for
granted non-controversial procedures for verifying or falsifying evi-
dence, and non-controversial procedures of argument about it. Thomas
Hobbes' Observation that men would suppress or even challenge the
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