Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/585

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By Dr. C. W. SUPER


THE question has been a good deal discussed whether history is a science or an art. Those who deny to it a place among the sciences proceed on the assumption that science deals only with facts, with uncontrovertible truths, and as history is for the most part founded on the preponderance of probabilities, it should not be ranked as a science. It is not possible to frame a definition of science sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all subjects that may be investigated by man. Only a single branch of science deals with incontrovertible truths, that is mathematics, while the subject matter of all others is constituted of data and not of facts. Science is founded upon method rather than upon results. All the sciences that deal with forces which may be more or less modified by acts dependent upon the human will, such as economics, politics, ethics, and others of the same class, can never attain positive results. Besides, some of the sciences are constituted of forces that are latent and more or less inscrutable so that there is no possibility of predicting when they will become active. Comte placed geology among the histories. It is the discovery of the changes that have taken place in the composition and recomposition of the globe. While there is substantial agreement among experts as to the order in which these changes took place, there are many minor points upon which there is more or less divergence of opinion. When we endeavor to set forth the order in which events took place we produce history, even though the artistic element be entirely lacking. History, as the term is usually understood, is the interpretation, from written records, of the psychic forces as manifested in acts land institutions. By written we are, however, to understand all the devices which men have employed for the purpose of preserving the memory of their deeds to future generations. William James defined history "as the observation of a series of changes of conditions that never exactly repeat themselves and that ever tend toward further and unfathomable changes."

According to this definition everything in the universe that is capable of being intellectually apprehended and is not static may be dealt with historically. The discovery and investigation of the memorials that man has unintentionally left of himself are usually classed as prehistory, and include paleontology, anthropology and some other sciences.

The term history is used interchangeably in one of two senses, although they differ widely. Can there be a history where there is no