segunda-feira, fevereiro 16, 2009

History, Science and Fiction

Este é um texto tirado de um livro que estou lendo. Não concordo com tudo o que ele diz, mas como achei interessante, resolvi postar, principalmente para os que estudam algo nessas áreas. Deixei em inglês, como o original, por preguiça de traduzir e por medo de cometer algum erro que comprometa o entendimento.
De onde? A Study in History, de Arnold J. Toynbee. 1942.

There are three different methods of viewing and presenting the objects of our thought, and, among them, the phenomena of human life. The first is the ascertainment and recording of "facts"; the second is the elucidation, through a comparative study of the facts ascertained, of general "laws"; the third is the artistic re-creation of the facts in the form of "fiction". It is generally assumed that the ascertainment and recording of facts is the technique of history, and that the phenomena in the province of this technique are the social phenomena of civilizations; the elucidation and formulation of general laws is the technique of science, and that, the study of human life, the science is anthropology and the phenomena in the province of the scientific technique are the social phenomena of primitive societies; and, lastly, that fiction is the technique of the drama and the novel, and that the phenomena in the province of this technique are the personal relations of human beings. All this, in essentials, is to be found in the work of Aristotle.
The distribution of the three techniques between the three departments of study is, however, less watertight than might be supposed. History, for example, does not concern itself with the recording of all the facts of human life. It leave alone the facts of social life in primitive societies, from which anthropology elucidates its "laws"; and it hands over to biography the facts of individual lives - though nearly all individuals lives that are of sufficient interest and importance to make them seem worth recording have been lived, not in primitive societies, but in one or other of this societies in process of civilization which are conventionally regarded as history’s province. Thus history concerns itself with some but not all the facts of human life; and, on the other hand, besides recording facts, history has also recourse to fiction and makes use of laws.
History, like the drama and the novel, grew out of mythology, a primitive form of apprehension and expression in which - as in fairy tales listened to by children or in dreams dreamt by sophisticated adults - the line between fact and fiction is left undrawn. It has, for example, been said of the Iliad that anyone who starts reading it as history will find that it is full of fiction but, equally, anyone who starts reading it as fiction will find that it is full of history. All histories resemble the Iliad to this extent, that they cannot entirely dispend the fictional element. The mere selection, arrangement and presentation of facts is a technique belonging to the field of fiction, and popular opinion is right in its insistence that no historian can be "great" if he is not also a great artist; that the Gibbons and Macaulay’s are greater historians than the "Dryasdusts" (a name coined by Sir Walter Scott - himself a great historian in some of his novels than any of his "histories") who have avoided their more inspired confrères’ factual inaccuracies. In any case, it is hardly possible to write two consecutive lines of historical narrative without introducing such fictious personifications as "England", "France", "the Conservative Party", "the Church", "the Press" or "public opinion". Thucydides dramatized "historical" personages by putting "fictious" speeches and dialogues into their mouths, but his oratio recta, while more vivid, is really no more fictional than the labored oratio obliqua in which the moderns present their composite photographs of public opinion.
On the other hand history has taken into her service a number of ancillary sciences which formulate general laws not about primitive societies but about civilizations: e.g. economics, political science and sociology.
Though it is not necessary to our own argument, we might demonstrate that, just as history is not innocent of using the techniques associated with science and fiction, so science and fiction by no means confine themselves to what are supposed to be their own techniques. All science pass through a stage in which the ascertainment and recording of facts is the only activity open to them, and the science of anthropology is only just emerging from this phase. Lastly, the drama and the novels do not present fictions, complete fictions and nothing but fictions regarding personal relationships. If they did, the product, instead of deserving Aristotle’s commendation that it was "truer and more philosophical than history", would consist of nonsensical and intolerable fantasies. When we call a piece of literature a work of fiction we mean no more than the characters could not be identified with any persons who lived in the flesh, nor the incidents with any particular events that have actually taken place. In fact, we mean that the work has a fictious personal foreground; and, if we do not mention that the background is composed of authentic social facts, that is simply because this seems so self-evident that we take it for granted. Indeed, we recognize that the highest praise we can give to a good work of fiction is to say that it is "true to life", and that "the author shows a profound understanding of human nature". To be more particular: if the novel deals with a fictitious family of Yorkshire woolen-manufacturers, we might praise the author by saying that he evidently knows his West Riding mill-towns through and through.
None the less, the Aristotelian distinction between the techniques of history, science and fiction remains valid in a general way, and we shall perhaps see why this is so if we examine these techniques again, for we shall find that they differ from each other in their suitability for dealing with "data” of different quantities. The ascertainment and record of particular facts is all that is possible in a field of study where the data happen to be few. The elucidation and formulation of laws is both possible and necessary where the data are too numerous to tabulate but not too numerous to survey. The form of artistic creation and expression, called fiction is the only technique that can be employed or is worth employing where the data are innumerable. Here, as between the three techniques, we have an intrinsic difference of a quantitative order. The techniques differ in their utility for handling different quantities of data. Can we discern a corresponding difference in the quantities of the data that actually present themselves in the respective fields of our three studies?
To begin with the study of personal relations, which is the province of fiction, we can see at once that there are few individuals whose personal relations are of such interest and importance as to make them fit subjects for that record of particular personal facts which we call biography. With these rare exceptions students of human life in the field of personal relations are confronted with innumerable examples of universally familiar experiences. The very idea of an exhaustive recording of them is an absurdity. Any formulations of their "laws" would be intolerably platitudinous or intolerably crude. In such circumstances the data cannot be significantly expressed except in some notation which gives an intuition of the infinite in finite terms; and such notation is fiction.
Having now found, in quantitive terms, at least a partial explanation of the fact that, in the study if personal relations, the technique of fiction is normally employed, let us see if we can find similar explanations for the normal employment of the law-making technique in the study of primitive societies and the fact-finding technique in the study of civilizations.
The first point to observe is that both these studies are concerned with human relations, but not with the relations of the familiar, personal kind which comes within the direct experience of every man, woman and child. The social relations of human beings extend beyond the farthest possible range of personal contacts, and these impersonal relations are maintained through social mechanisms called institutions. Without institutions societies could not exist. Indeed, societies themselves are simply institutions of the highest kind. The study of societies and the study of institutional relations are one and the same thing.
We can see at once that the quantity of data confronting students of institutional relations between people is very much smaller than the quantity confronting students of people’s personal relations. We can see further that the quantity of recorded institutional relations that are relevant to the study of primitive societies will be much greater than the quantity of those relevant to the study of "civilized" societies, because the number of known primitive societies runs to over 650, whereas our survey of societies in process of civilization has enabled us to identify no more than, at the outside, twenty-one. Now 650 examples, while far from necessitating the employment of fiction, are just enough to enable the student to make a beginning with the formulation of laws. On the other hand, students of a phenomenon of which only a dozen or two dozen examples are known are discouraged from attempting more than a tabulation of facts; and this, as we have seen it, is the stage in which "history" has remained so far.
At first sight it may seem a paradox to assert that the quantity of data which students of civilization have at their command is inconveniently small, when our modern historians are complaining that they are overwhelmed by the mass of their materials. But it remains true that the facts of the highest order, the "intelligible fields of study", the comparable units of history, remain inconveniently few for the application of laws. None the less, at our own peril, we intend to hazard the attempt, and the results of it are embodied in the remainder of this book.

3 comentários:

Lobz Wolblood disse...

Quero saber com o que você discorda. Eu fiquei bastante convencida. Por outro lado, eu deveria ficar desconfiada de um historiador que raciocina de forma tão evidentemente científica.

Utak disse...

droga, comecei a ler umas três vezes, mas esqueci aonde eu parei...!
dê-me mais um tempo...!

muriel disse...

Nossa, nunca te imaginaria lendo... Toynbee!

É engraçado como algumas coisas que ele fala sobre ficção e história estão presentes na historiografia pós-moderna, e ao mesmo tempo ele tem essa preocupação com leis e dados e essa distinção radical entre sociedades primitivas e civilização.