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Informationsquellen May 9, 2006

Posted by The Truth in WARNING: Heavy Reading Ahead.
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WARNING: HEAVY READING AHEAD. May cause indigestion, migrane, heart palpitations, unhealthy philosophical reflection, mental instability, drowsiness (DO NOT DRIVE OR OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY) or tired dry eyes. But you’re a champion if you try to understand it.

So, now we come to the historical issue of sources. Much has been said about it, and even yours truly remembers some very little detail of whatever he learned in History classes. Basically, sources can be classified broadly into two groups: primary and secondary sources. Do i have to elaborate?

Primary sources are things which you see first-hand, like physical historical artefacts, monuments, et cetera. Secondary sources are what you read in the textbooks, because they were reported from somewhere else. Anyway, if you studied history in secondary schools/JC, although they made clear the difference between primary and secondary sources, but did you ever get the feeling that ultimately, we just treated all our textbooks (secondary sources) like primary sources because we studied them so religiously like the Bible?!

So is history all about the quest for unadulterated, genuine information about what happened in the past? Or is it the process of silencing all evidence which speak for themselves (like artefacts) through the process of interpretation? Opening it to all discursive subjects, the question is: what's the real purpose of evidence?

Let's see. Some authors take evidence as referring to all the sources one goes to when pursuing some form of research, i.e., the evidence is in the record. But by blurring the differences between evidence and traces of information, such an approach tends to give one the naive view that most knowledge and evidence always organise themselves into logically sound progressions, which is probably quite untrue…it probably is the work of the researcher to make evidence out of those traces, in that the trace only becomes evidence when used to substantiate a particular argument.

Either way, it seems that the Passepartout for research is NOT to take the definition of evidence ambiguously. Let's define, then, evidence as the following:

evidence: Traces of information or information used to support a particular argument AFTER the argument has been laid down, not BEFORE.

Think about this lastly…evidence cannot logically act as a check on any kind of discourse…unfortunately, those of the former who believe that evidence encompasses all the sources one goes to for information fall into this logical trap, because they build their discourse based upon the evidence here, by setting the evidence as something which MUST have a fixed meaning, which has a place in the orderly logical world. This will see any discourse to ruination. Evidence is only used to give any particular discourse body and context; how can traces on their own have any meaning whatsoever?

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