Knowledge of Knowledge: Decoding the Process of knowing in History and Human Science


Human Science – Knowledge, as it is formulated and presented in various forms, is a mere result of experiments using methodologies. The diligent search for new knowledge covers a wide and integrated process of research in which individuals and groups act toward the dynamic identification and formulation of concepts, theories, principles, rules, and procedures that are useful in searching for truth. 

History is the knowledge of and study of the past. It is the story of the past and a form of collective memory. Events are presented in chronological order which gives us a key and develops our understanding of relatable circumstances that are faced in the future. Science consists of two parts: the body of knowledge and the processes by which that knowledge is produced. The scientific process is a way of building knowledge through various methods and making predictions that can be tested. 

In order to produce knowledge, it is essential to use different methodologies to arrive at concrete conclusions that form a new understanding of a concept. In order to understand the title better, History and human sciences can be correlated while framing arguments and counterarguments.  

Knowledge about history can only be gained by connecting the events in chronological order. 

History is a collection of all recorded past events and helps us get knowledge of them while we try to connect their links and place them in chronological order. History is also a study of changes that have occurred over time, historians study these changes and try to present meaningful explanations of them. The process by which they do this is called historical methodology, they use it to gather evidence of the past, evaluate it, correlate it to the existing knowledge, and ultimately after crucial understanding, present us with the knowledge of history. History is not pure science, but many aspects of the historical method are scientific, requiring analysis, interpretation, and critical thinking.

Placing events in a timeline will help us mindmap the events and understand their causes and effects effectively. “Chronology provides a mental framework or map which gives significance and coherence to the study of history.” It is only with the chronology of historical events that we can explain their relevance to one another otherwise we would just be stating generalized similarities without showing their impacts on one another.

Herodotus, A greek of the 5th century is often considered the first historian who also recorded chronological data so that events and people could be placed in the overall timeline of history. Taking an example into consideration, if the rise of Hitler is to be analyzed, it is necessary to go back to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 which triggered the German sentiment and changed the ideas of many individuals in society who later supported the Nazi regime whose one of the primary aims was to revoke the treaty.

Another factor for the rise of Hitler was growing restlessness amongst the people notably after the 1929 Economic depression. Ultimately, after understanding all these events in relevance to their time, we arrived at the conclusion that Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, what happened next till the end of the second world war is history and is known to the world. The chronological placement of the events helps us better understand German history and shows how slowly and gradually the Nazi party became prominent. 

No wonder that chronology is important to understand and correlate historical events but it is not merely the only factor. On contrary, History is not just a subject of time, it must embrace the richness and variability of different times that exist throughout our lives that are evident in nonmodern societies and historical writings about them. To conflate time and chronology is to succumb as Michel de Certeau(french scholar) famously quotes “To make use of time without reflecting on it”.

The modern discipline of history sees itself as a study of change. The more important question in understanding history is to know how things came into being not how changes occur. History is much more than a simple chronological understanding of events. As simplified as the chronological order of history might seem, it the complex it is to draw concrete conclusions.

It significantly lags behind the bigger picture and sometimes even historians might see it as a hefty task to understand a whole timeline of history just to find a simple conclusion of a few years. For example, if we were to develop knowledge of the Third Reich(1933-1945) and how it came into being, it will be illogical to trace it from the First Reich(800-1806) followed by the Second Reich(1871-1918) considering that Third Reich was an imaginary name given by the Nazis to influence the German population.

Theoretical history would be more useful here rather than chronological history to see the bigger picture and draw effective conclusions. The methodology greatly determines the knowledge of history we use to produce it and chronology is one such methodology but it is important to understand that the mere sequential placement of events does not confine history, it is also greatly determined by other factors such as sources used, their analysis and interpretation of various events together which are often interlinked in some aspects. 

Hypothesis creation and testing are the only way to produce knowledge in the human sciences. 

Human scientists use observation, gather data, form hypotheses, aim to test the validity of these hypotheses, and possibly falsify them. Theories are created if they show positive results in all the tests over time and rejected if proven wrong. A hypothesis is a tentative statement stating the relation between two or more variables and an approximation of what possible outcomes can a given experiment have.

Scientific hypotheses are essential for progress in scientific disciplines which rapidly advance. Presenting such hypotheses, however, may need a thorough analysis of evidence based on calculations of a given data. Since the scientists are unsure about the results, they present calculative hypotheses about what might happen as a result which is essential as it not only increases the accountability of the researcher but also increases the efficiency of knowledge producing in the field of human science.

A hypothesis is used for supporting scientific research and creating breakthroughs in the existing knowledge, which means the knowledge of human sciences keeps on increasing. For any good scientific exploration, it is important to present good hypotheses which might also help in formulating the effective design of an experiment. Hypothesis testing is an essential methodology in approaching human science.

It provides the ground of validity to research prior to the experiment and also cross-verify after the experiment is done, any new foundations apart from hypotheses that were assumed to be new discoveries. For example, professionals write hypotheses as if/then statements such as if someone eats a lot of sugar then they will develop cavities in their teeth. This statement identified certain variables and proposed results.

The Variable is sugar and the result is developing cavities. Essentially, all types of human sciences require a statement that might predict the occurrence of an event, hypothesis is a statement that can help us be better focused on deriving concrete results rather than enlarging our perspective for an experiment and ultimately being confused about what to expect as a result. 

It will be wrong to view hypothesis as the only methodology to produce and advance our knowledge in human sciences. Human science is the study of sociocultural and biological aspects of a human and at a more fundamental level, it is to understand what is to be a human being. Even though human sciences may use scientific methods to derive conclusions, such conclusions can be subjective to some extent as human behavior is unpredictable.

Results may vary from one human to another which is a big limitation of hypothesis testing. The findings and knowledge produced, in this sense would be highly misinterpreted and irrelevant to many humans if hypothesis testing be considered the only way to approach human sciences. The observer effect which tells how a person might act when being watched can make us question whether the theories derived during such experiments are logical or not considering that the people involved might have acted differently.

This makes it harder to come up with theories in human science as knowledge needs to be presented with valid laws is confined. Experimenting in human sciences can be complicated as there are no units for feelings and emotions and the human conscience is the subject of the rapid flow of ideas. An example of a failed hypothesis is the famous Stanford Prison experiment of 1971 which was designed to see the behavior of its participants in a simulated prison situation that was supposed to last for 2 weeks but ended in just 6 days after the researchers lost control over the conditions.

This showed that experimentation has no control over the human conscience and its approach to different situations, it is thus illogical to form laws by confined hypothesis testing. It might work for certain conditions such as the law of demand and supply in economics which was an adequate hypothesis by middle-aged economists but not all areas of human sciences can be dealt with by hypothesis.

Abhilaksh Dhankhar is a Orator, Writer, Analyzer of geopolitical scenarios and military strategies. He has attended numerous conferences around the world on politics and has been conferred with more than 5 international awards. Abhilaksh also served as esteemed jury member in diplomatic meets. His vision to expand the ideals of international diplomacy made his self-initiated project "Drona" to be recognized as top ten most sustainable projects in India. 11 times, he has been selected for Harvard's Asia conferences and international relations programs. He worked with UNESCO under project RAISE to remove the gender disparity in the society. Abhilaksh constantly likes to spread his ideas and delivers effective seminars and sessions around the world, so far teaching more than 200 youngsters.


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