Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Five Questions of Historical Inquiry

There are three distinguishable but clearly interrelated methods of historical knowledge: factual, explanatory, and normative. The first of these methods is divisible into three forms of inquiry: chronology, interpretation, and recreation. Historical knowledge thus seeks answers to five questions: first, “What occurred in a specific place at a specific time?”; second, “What is the importance of what occurred?”; third, “What was it like when it occurred?”; fourth, “Owing to what conditions did it occur?”; fifth, “Is it good or bad that it should have occurred?” These are all pertinent questions; none can properly be disqualified; and they all permit of answers more or less true and more or less proved.

Ralph Barton Perry, Realms of Value, Chapter XX

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