ERIC Number: ED207893
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Aug
Reference Count: 0
Qualitative Studies: Historiographical Antecedents.
Mills, Rilla Dean
This paper provides an overview of qualitative studies' antecedents among historiographers and of the positivist tide which nearly engulfed them. Humans live by interpretations. The task of social science--the basic task of qualitative studies--is to study these interpretations so that we can better understand the meanings which people use to guide their activities. This is what some historians have tried to do since at least the time of Herodotus. Social science's detour down the positivist path was prepared by Locke, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, and Descartes. Man, in the new understanding, was at root a rational being, and once his true "nature" were known, so would be the natural laws of his own behavior. Dissatisfaction with the rationalists' mechanical view of man led to the excessively emotional, occasionally mystic view of man. The mystical undercurrents of Romanticism were probably at least partly responsible for the outpouring of philosophies (Kant's, Hegel's, Marx's) in the early 19th century. For most of the West, however, it was not Marx or Hegel but Leopold Von Ranke, who was to be the model for the practice of history. Ranke insisted that historians made a thorough study of the personality, tendencies, activities, and opportunities of the author of each document. With the positivists in the 19th and 20th century, history's purpose became to codify and, therefore, predict the behavior of men in the same way that contemporary physics seemed to be doing in the physical world. At the same time another series of thinkers, including Dilthey, held fast to the insight that man, through his history, is part of a dynamic chain of existence. In studying nature, Dilthey pointed out, man was always the outsider. (Author/RM)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Qualitative Studies
Note: Paper presented to the Qualitative Studies Division of the Association for Education in Journalism Annual Convention (East Lansing, MI, August, 1981).