Presentation on theme: "Approaches to Ancient History Week 3: evaluating theory."— Presentation transcript:
Approaches to Ancient History Week 3: evaluating theory
Evaluating theory 1 Focus not only on identifying general concepts and processes, but on evaluating their plausibility. Breadth of generalisation: how large a geographical area, how long a period of time, how many aspects of human activity does it purport to cover? Universal or historically specific?
Evaluating Theory 2 Status of generalisation: what sort of knowledge does it claim to provide? Invariable laws of human behaviour, or a sense of the range of possibilities in particular circumstances? Social science offers different sorts of models: deliberate simplification of reality in order to highlight key aspects.
Evaluating Theory 3 As with any historical account, need to consider plausibility of interpretation of evidence, compared with alternative interpretations. Which can explain the most and has to ignore the least? Problem: evidence can be interpreted in different ways according to prior assumptions. Incommensurability.
Evaluating Theory 4 Evaluate not only in respect to evidence, but also political and moral criteria. No neutral vantage point? Grand narrative ; some form of narrative structure indispensable? How far may the plausibility of an account depend on whether it tells the sort of story we want to hear?