Chaos and History - a Common Future?
Scientific theories often are a source of inspiration for historians. Chaos theory, which is said, to provide plausible models for casual analysis, is regarded as one of the most interesting, and promising scientific concepts that can contribute to historical methods. That view has been most explicitly shown in a series of articles about integration of nonlinear dynamics and history published in 'History and Theory'. When writing about chaos theory it's important not to forget its mathematical meaning. So author describes main features of dynamical systems, which are described as chaotic or nonlinear. Most important features are sensitivity to initial conditions and strange attractors. They both offer very convenient metaphors, which are easily associated with causality observed in historical phenomenon. But do they offer really useful methods? This was the issue authors of History and Theory's series of papers were mostly concerned with. Author of the paper claims that the conclusions of all previous papers about integration of history and chaos theory, although not always literally, tended to stress importance of chaos theory as a way to make science and humanities more closely related. Thus those approaches didn't offer any methods that could be of some intrinsic value to historian's research. The author argues that in order to propose a sensible way of integrating nonlinear dynamics into historical methods it is necessary to know exactly how to understand history. When history is defined as a science, whose main task is to analyze causal relations in the past and to discern between influences ofspecific factors in historical processes then it is possible to augment historical research with findings of chaos theory. He points to possibility of applying chaos theory to creating models of historical processes and thus enabling historians to check if some specific factors were a part of specific historical phenomenon.
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