Reviewer: Many historians claim, in their own treatment of subject matter, to be as little affected as any natural s...

Serra on March 2 at 09:38PM

(D) vs. (E)

The authors conclusion is “But we clearly cannot accept these proclamations of objectivity…” with the reasoning being that ”it is easy to find instances of false historical explanations embodying the ideological and other prejudices of their authors.” ‘Unprejudiced’ and ‘objective’ can be used synonymously, so it follows that the easily found examples illustrating “historical explanations embodying the … prejudices of their authors” are not objective. Why would we accept someones claimed objectivity when there exists a clear example of the inverse? I can see that the argument is flawed in the sense that it makes judgement that no proclamations of objectivity made by historians can be accepted, when all we know is that “Many historians” make this claim. So I chose (E) fails to recognize that not all historical explanations embodying ideologies are false. How is the correct answer choice (D) takes for granted that some historical work that embodies prejudices is written by historians who purport to be objective? Takes it for for granted? How so? The author doesn’t infer that some historical work that embodies prejudices is written by historians who purport to be objective, he explicitly states that they do this and that we shouldn’t accept these claims because there are easily located examples showing otherwise. I’ve read the prior discussion boards and even though Naz gives an awesome explanation, I’m still not accepting that the answer is (D). What am I missing?

3 Replies

Jacob on March 3 at 12:57AM

I’m happy to help. In order to understand why D is correct and E is wrong, let’s first home in on the question stem.

We are trying to figure out why the reviewer’s reasoning is most vulnerable to criticism. In order to do that, we first need to understand the reasoning itself.

The reviewer argues that many historians claim to be objective. The reviewer then argues that we can’t accept the objectivity proclamations. Why? Because it is easy to find instances of false historical explanations “embodying the ideological and other prejudices of their authors.”

What is the flaw there? The problem is that instances of false historical explanations embodying the prejudices of their authors doesn’t have any necessary link to historians making proclamations about objectivity! That is, imagine a historian who says — the Korean War was provoked by Korea, and that this is a false historical explanation embodying the prejudices of the historian. Couldn’t that historian then also acknowledge their own prejudice, and not proclaim objectivity? If so, then the logic in the passage doesn’t work, because that example (or others) doesn’t tell us that we cannot accept other proclamations of objectivity!

That is what answer D states. That at least “some historical work that embodies prejudices is written by historians who purport to be objective.” This is the link that is missing in the argument, and thus the grounds that the argument is most vulnerable to criticism.

Answer E doesn’t target that problem. It instead states that the argument fails to recognize that not all historical explanations embodying ideologies are false. Even if the argument failed to recognize this, if it had included the linkage described in answer D, then the reviewer’s reasoning would still be correct: if there were even some historical explanations embodying false ideologies, AND some of those were by historians who claimed to be objective, then the logic would be fine!

I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have further questions.

Serra on March 3 at 03:31AM

Jacob, I appreciate your articulate (and poignant) explanation. Now I completely understand why (D) is the correct answer. Thank you!

Ravi on March 9 at 07:32PM

@msaber, happy you found Jacob's explanation helpful—that's what we're here for!