View Full Version : Is History a Science or Art?

Saturday, November 28th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Hey everyone, new to this forum and all, and seeing as how this is my first actual thread, I'll just start off.

I'm planning on majoring in history in college, and recently it was brought to my attention just what the subject of history is considered. Seeing as how I'm going into it, I think I need to make the clarification whether history is a social science or art.

I'm kinda leaning on it being a science, considering that in history you gather data of a certain event, analyze it, and do a cause&effect assessment of the data. That's my two cents :thumbup

Thanks for having me!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009, 10:56 PM
I would say it is in an art. The certain key points, dates and facts of a particular event are the canvas and the brush, the presentation thereof is the colour and technique. It is entirely up to the artist how to represent a certain event: no two historians' conclusion will be the same.

If it was a science then there would be certain applicable laws to History. There could be different theories, but one would work with certain natural laws. It lacks continuity, system, constants, and predicability and universality: What is history in England may not be history in Poland, they might have two entirely different run-down of events, and see two entirely different patterns.

What do I mean by a lack of laws? One would have to assume that if exactly the same men, exactly the same generals, exactly the same techniques were applied again in Teutoburg forest, it would have the same result. Re-enacting such a situation might however not render the same result, the constant of Soldier #1798's strike to the head with the sword has the variable outcome of Warrior #54's surviving in Scenario 1 and perishing in Scenario 2.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009, 12:34 AM
History is a social science, but I think most social sciences classify as arts. I don't think I know a university, which hands you a Bachelor or Master's Degree in Science if you studied History. I got mine in Arts at least, even if I picked Archeology, which uses some scientific methods. But in history, you've no 1+1=2 rules like in mathematics. It's not exact. You find something buried, you try to date it, you make the scientific steps in the laboratory, but it doesn't end there. Because you've still to put together pieces of the puzzle and establish who the person was, who the goods belonged to and so forth.

In history, you could easily go wrong by making a false assumption, jumping to a false conclusion. The events are the interpretation of the historian, and not few times the interpretations caused harsh criticism and debates.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009, 12:04 PM
I agree with the above insofar history cannot strictly be considered a science, but I don't think of it as an art either, because I see art as everything of which the only purpose is producing an emotional reaction. The knowledge of where we come from and who we are is contained within the domain of history, and as such our attitudes and ideals should be subject to it, with our attitudes and ideals hopefully aligned with our emotional investments, but not solely dictated thereby.

Frankly, I think history sits outside both the realms of science and art.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009, 12:46 PM
Here are the some definitions of Art and History-

the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

the record of past events and times, esp. in connection with the human race

IMO art is creative of imagination and history should be factual and relevant to things that happened in the past.

I would have to agree with Stormraaf that history should be in its own class. You can use history to create art, but you should never use art to create history.

Science is based on facts and data collected and educated conclusions of those facts and data. You can use science to create art and record history. in that sense history is closer to science.

History and Science should be separate yet lend themselves to create art.

When you use art to create history and make scientific conclusions you end up with people trying to control either for their own benefit.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009, 01:24 PM
I don't think I know a university, which hands you a Bachelor or Master's Degree in Science if you studied History. I got mine in Arts at least, even if I picked Archeology, which uses some scientific methods.

I wouldn't say that this classification is automatically reliable. Sometimes, disciplines are classed by their historical evolution in certain academic fields.

Since for instance Psychology originally arose from Philosophy, some universities offer Degrees in Arts, but since it approaches Psychiatry and Neurology, some award them in Science, and some in both (Aberdeen, for instance, used both - you could study Psychology as an Art OR a Science).

Linguistics is another such "quarrelsome" case. There was much argument to include it as a science - Generative Grammar suggested an inherited universal grammar, and there are several laws for phonetic change, etc. pp.

For example, Grimm's Law suggests that phonetic change is always systematic, which Verner's Law qualifies further as to being dependant on the position of the accent at the stage of when most European IG languages lost the mobility of their accent. Leskien's Law dictates shortenings of final syllable long vowels and certain diphthongs in Baltic and Slavic languages, etc. Furthermore, you will find that certain phoneme combinations in a given language will always, over time, end in predictable assimilation.

On the other hand, you'd have certain fields of Sociolinguistics and Patholinguistics which approach sociological fields, also Language Policy, which would move the whole thing more towards being an Art.

In History there cannot even be a question. History simply doesn't follow any given laws. As such, the argument for it to be a science are fairly scarce. Even Archeology doesn't fulfill the requirement of being a science; whilst it certainly uses some scientific methods, there is very little system, continuity, predictability or general rules to the subject.

Monday, November 30th, 2009, 01:43 AM
A Science. Art is creating something, History has already been created. unless you are a politician, then maybe you would create history.