TOK: Emotion

by 042690 on September 4, 2017


Emotion plays a key role in our daily lives and it is a part of us that impacts the decisions we make and shapes our judgement of certain situations.

Claim:  A good historian strives to be as unemotional as possible, this is the only way to write accurate history

Some may agree with this claim and some may disagree. If a historian was as unemotional as possible, they would only use facts and reasoning. It seems to be commonly agreed on that in historical study, the involvement of emotions usually can cause hindrance in the pursuit of knowledge. This is because emotions can sometimes cloud an individuals judgement on certain things which in turn leads to biased descriptions of events. Historians could not rely on certain primary sources who were at the event because their emotions might have clouded their judgement. Without human emotions present, the historian would be able to interpret what happened without favouring one side or another which some would say would cause human history to be more accurately told. If a historian did involve emotions with their work, bias may arise. For example, if a shocking statistic came to light about a certain event, the immediate human instinct of that historian would be to sympathise with the people would were impacted by the event. As a result, the historian might portray the event as worse than it really was due to that statistic or they might not focus on other facts of the event because this one fact was so shocking.

However, a counter-claim could be made that good historians should necessarily be completely unemotional. Understanding emotions can be essential in order for a historian to fully understand the event. With emotion, historians can use primary sources such as eyewitnesses who may have seen the events as sources of information. Though these sources might be biased to a certain side, they can provide crucial information to historians on what certain groups of people were feeling during the event. Without emotion, a historian would never truly be able to understand how people were impacted by certain events and how the events made them feel. Furthermore, getting first-hand accounts of what happened at certain events can be crucial in providing historians with information that they might not have obtained without emotion (as there would be no use of eyewitnesses). People studying the event would be able to get a better understanding of different people and different groups were impacted by the event that occurred.

In conclusion, I personally feel that it is impossible for a historian to be completely unemotional as I do think that things like the historians past experiences and background will cloud the way they think, regardless of how unemotional they try to be. I believe that though there are problems with using emotion in history, there certainly are lots of benefits which are crucial to understanding the full context of the historical event. Having primary sources is key as it provides a first hand account of the event and if a historian were to use primary sources from both sides of an argument, the bias can be less. Emotion can be an effective way to gain knowledge, but only to a certain extent and should not be overly relied on.

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