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Observation of the Past

Peter Kosso
History and Theory
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 21-36
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
DOI: 10.2307/2505606
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2505606
Page Count: 16
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Observation of the Past
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Abstract

A careful analysis of the role of observation in the natural sciences, with particular attention to the epistemic evaluation and evidential contribution of observations, is used as the basis for an argument that the opportunities for meaningful observations in studies of the human past (history and archaeology) are no fewer and no less important that in the natural sciences. Observation is described in terms of the acquisition of information through interaction with the world, a description which brings out the significant epistemic features of observation in science while avoiding the controversial and misleading issue of distinguishing the observable from the unobservable. This description applies as effectively and with equal epistemological sensitivity to empirical studies of the human past and it shows that they are not disadvantaged with respect to the sciences in terms of their ability to observe, directly or indirectly, the objects of study.

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