Henry Thomas Buckle's Original 1858 essay

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As activists in women's liberation, discussing and analyzing the oppression and inequalities they experienced as women, they felt it imperative to find out about the lives of their foremothers -- and found very little scholarship in print" (Women's history, 2012, para. 3). This dearth of scholarly is due in large part to the events and themes that are the focus of the historical record. In this regard, "History was written mainly by men and about men's activities in the public sphere -- war, politics, diplomacy and administration. Women are usually excluded and, when mentioned, are usually portrayed in sex-stereotypical roles, such as wives, mothers, daughters and mistresses. History is value-laden in regard to what is considered historically 'worthy'" (Women's history, 2012, para. 3).

In what Kessler (1994, p. 139) describes as "the all-too-common historical exclusion or devaluation of women's contributions," the male-dominated record of human history has either diminished the significance of these contributions by women or has simply ignored them altogether. This lack of attribution only serves to diminish the true significance of the contributions that women have made to the progress of knowledge over the centuries. For example, according to Buckle, "The influence of women on the progress of knowledge, undoubtedly one of the most interesting questions that could be submitted to any audience. Indeed, it is not only very interesting, it is also extremely important" (p. 1). The extreme importance of this enterprise is also made clear by Buckle's observations concerning how these contributions have accelerated in recent years, making the investigation all the more timely and relevant: "When we see how knowledge has civilized mankind; when we see how every great step in the march and advance of nations has been invariably preceded by a corresponding stop in their knowledge; when we moreover see, what is assuredly true, that women are constantly growing more influential, it becomes a matter of great moment that we should endeavor to ascertain the relation between their influence and our knowledge" (Buckle, 1858, p. 1).

Establishing the precise relationship between women and their contribution to the progress of knowledge, though, remains problematic. For example, according to Tushabe (2008), "Our democracy must not see women's contributions as virtues of nurturance and care, while men's contributions are regarded as public and political baselines for democracy. Resistance to women's work as democratic at the grassroots level results from the degree to which gender differences have been naturalized" (p. 44). This naturalization and institutionalization of gender-related differences has adversely affected the perception of the value of women's contributions.

In this regard, Tushabe adds that, [in the 1970s], people were too disrupted by inhospitable political, social, and economic conditions and had no luxury for reflection. But we can do that today and be more proactive in taking women's contributions more seriously as democratic contributions" (2008, p. 44). In sum, women's contributions to the progress of human knowledge are varied and pervasive, but much has transpired in the years since Buckle's original discourse concerning these contributions in 1858 that bear further study as described further below.

Overview of Study

This study used a five-chapter format to achieve the above-stated research purpose and develop an informed answer to the study's guiding research question. Chapter one introduced the topic under consideration, a statement of the problem, the purpose and importance of the study, as well as its scope and rationale. Chapter two consists of a critical review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature, as well as online open source resources such as Wikipedia. Chapter three presents the study's methodology, including a description of the study approach, the data-gathering method and the database of study consulted. The study's penultimate chapter consists of an analysis of the data developed during the research process and concluding chapter presents the study's conclusions and a summary of the research.

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

What is Knowledge?

Simply stated, knowledge is demonstrated when people evince a familiarity with something that includes relevant details such as information and facts or experiential or educational skills that are acquired over time (Knowledge, 2012). According to the encyclopedic entry for the term, "Knowledge can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic" (Knowledge, 2012, para 1). Epistemology is the study of knowledge in philosophical settings. According to the encyclopedic entry, "The philosopher Plato famously defined knowledge as 'justified true belief.' However, no single agreed upon definition of knowledge exists, though there are numerous theories to explain it" (Knowledge, 2012, para. 1). The acquisition of knowledge is a complex affair that involves a wide range of processes, including communication, perception, association and reasoning; in addition, knowledge is thought to be associated with the capacity of acknowledgment in humans (Knowledge, 2012).

Despite ongoing efforts by scholars to develop a formal and universally accepted definition of knowledge, there remains a lack of consensus among epistemological philosophers concerning the nature of knowledge (Knowledge, 2012). In this regard, the encyclopedic definition for knowledge state that, "The classical definition, described but not ultimately endorsed by Plato specifies that a statement must meet three criteria in order to be considered knowledge: it must be justified, true, and believed [but] some claim that these conditions are not sufficient" (Knowledge, 2012, para. 3).

In the alternative, some scholars suggest that an essential component of knowledge is that it "tracks the truth" and that "the definition of knowledge requires that the evidence for the belief necessitates its truth" (Knowledge, 2012, para. 3). Other aspects of knowledge include symbolic representations of various types that are used to communicate information of all sorts from one person to others: "Symbolic representations can be used to indicate meaning and can be thought of as a dynamic process. Hence the transfer of the symbolic representation can be viewed as one ascription process whereby knowledge can be transferred" (Knowledge, 2012). The symbolic approach holds that knowledge assumes two basic forms: (a) a set of propositions (these involve specified relations among specified symbols standing for objects or classes of objects); and (b) a system of rules for using knowledge to make inferences and to guide actions (Halford & Simon, 1995, p. 158).

In contrast to symbolic representation, propositional knowledge is of a type that is capable of being acquiring through both experienced events that are encoded into propositional form as well as by inferences that are applied to such encoded propositions (Halford & Simon, 1995, p. 158). To date, a significant amount of theoretical investigation regarding developmental psychology generally accepts the validity of the symbolic approach model (Halford & Simon, 1995). In addition, Halford and Simon report that, "Researchers have examined knowledge at various age levels, including children's knowledge in terms of a set of rules; infants' knowledge of intuitive physics in terms of innate principles with which children reason; and children's knowledge of morphology in terms of a simple rule system, complemented by a separate associative system used for exceptions" (1995, p. 158). Clearly, knowledge assumes a wide range of forms and types, and it is equally clear that women are well situated to contribute to these difference branches of knowledge in important ways as discussed further below.

Women's Contribution to the Progress of Knowledge

In his discourse, Henry Thomas Buckle refers to "the incalculable service women have rendered to the progress of knowledge." Indeed, the scholar suggests that the advance of knowledge has proceeded in a unbroken fashion from the dawn of history to the present thanks to the contributions of women who have kept men from becoming too introverted in their research to have any meaningful effect. In this regard, Buckle emphasizes that, "Great and exclusive as is our passion for induction, it would, but for them, have been greater and more exclusive still. Empirical as we are, slaves as we are to the tyranny of facts, our slavery would, but for them, have been more complete and more ignominious" (1858, para. 13). Rather than full partners in the knowledge-advancing enterprise, though, Buckle does appear to relegate them to the lesser role of serving as inspiration for mere men who would otherwise founder. According to Buckle, "[Women's] turn of thought, their habits of mind, their conversation, their influence, insensibly extending over the whole surface of society, and frequently penetrating its intimate structure, have, more than all other things put together, tended to raise us into an ideal world, lift us from the dust in which we are too prone to grovel, and develop in us those germs of imagination which even the most sluggish and apathetic understandings in some degree possess" (1858, para. 13). Other authorities, though, suggest that women's contributions to the progress of…[continue]

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