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BA(Hons) (USYD)

burnett,b_thesis_2014 Toward a Dialectic Account of Objectivity in Historical Inquiry

This thesis is a work in the Philosophy of History. In it, we undertake the task of explicating a case defending a particular account of objectivity in historical inquiry, namely, a dialectic account of objectivity. Initially, we introduce the issue with a preamble with respect to the history of the objectivity question in the historical profession, and how objectivity has been typically cast in it. The core argument then proceeds in three steps. First, we discuss Thomas Nagel’s account of the absolute conception, which leads to the intuitive conclusion that truth is something ‘out there’ that is accessible by us. Second, we defend Bernard Williams’ account of the genealogical conception of truth, supporting the contention that truth is something we ought to value, and that particular virtues of truth such as Sincerity and Accuracy follow from this. Following on from this, we derive the third and final step, namely, the dialectic conception of objectivity, whereby both the absolute and external nature of truth and the value we place on truth and its virtues implies that we need to do the best that we can to strive to find out what the truth is, and a person counts as being more or less objective according to the relevant degree to which he or she employs particular truth-conducive virtuous characteristic traits with that aim across the course of his or her inquiry. Finally, we end with a brief note on the application of dialectic objectivity to historical inquiry specifically, and propose some suggestions for further research.

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