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History and Ethics: Conflicting Theories in Areas of Knowledge

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Innately, the human brain develops knowledge through the facts and detailed reality of our experiences. When our understanding of the world is not provided through experience, we rationally produce our own logically formed understanding through multiple components of our knowledge (theories). Therefore, theories are established in such a way that they are coherently linked to the reality of our experiences, enabling for the continuous comparative testing and analysis of theories and truth. On that account, no theory can ever be a truth, they can merely act as our optimum understanding and explanation in any given time of what is perceived. Any theory has the possibility of one day being debunked and replaced by another and this is my interpretation of the use of the word “limitations”. The statement “Given that every theory has its limitations, we need to retain a multiplicity of theories to understand the world” to me, appears to be a rather indefinite claim. My understanding of obtaining multiple theories in order to understand areas of knowledge in our world refers to the necessity of acquiring a variety of conflicting theories so that these different theories are challenged, compared, and improved.

Thus in response to the claim that multiple contrasting theories are required to understand a particular field of knowledge, I agree with this title, but conditionally: while often the use of multiple conflicting theories in different areas of knowledge such as History and Ethics can cause more uncertainty and confusion.

Inherently, the fundamentals of the area of knowledge History are repeatedly being revised and modernized as a result of its core essence referring to the study of past events, not the ‘past’ itself. Considering this definition, the methods which are responsible for generating knowledge in this area such as formulating hypotheses and historical ideas, largely rely on our knowledge of the past. This proves to be rather problematic as all our knowledge of the past originates from the evidence of the present and memory, allowing room for fallible, ambiguous, and bias information. History studies the ‘past’ which theoretically suggests that it is objective as the past has already happened and cannot be altered however, the methodology involved in reconstructing knowledge of the past enables the formation of different perspectives and subjective interpretations. This consequently subjugates the area of knowledge to a considerable amount of debate and conflicting theories.

As stated above, I will argue that a multiplicity of theories are required in order to fully understand an area of knowledge. In History, this is consistently the case with a constant need to debate leading concepts and ideas in order to maintain the highest possible level of truth. The historiographical debate, Functionalism versus intentionalism which is often associated with the origins of the Holocaust is a concrete example of this. The ongoing “functionalism versus intentionalism” debate consists of two primary conflicting theories; Functionalism or Structuralism and Intentionalism. On one hand, functionalists believe that the Holocaust was a product of many different complex factors such as the entangled structure of the Reich, the bureaucracy, and the will of the individuals implementing the Holocaust. Whereas on the contrary, intentionalists who are commonly supporters of the ‘Great Man Theory’, believe that Hitler had a long-standing plan to exterminate the Jews and that the holocaust was primarily the result of Hitler’s early intentions. Although both sides don’t doubt Hitler’s anti-Semitic advocacy which allowed the Holocaust to take place, Functionalists adopt the ‘bottom to top’ way of thinking, believing that the primary cause of the holocaust was the complex matrix of institutional chaos and political, economic, or military pragmatic policies. In synthesis, both theoretical models deliver convincing arguments however, neither theory is wholly adequate on its own. It is only in the examination of both ideologies that one can come to a thurer and proper understanding of the origins of the Holocaust. Therefore, demonstrating that multiple theories are required to understand certain historical events.

On the other hand, in some cases retaining a multiplicity of theories when studying history can be detrimental to our understanding of certain historical events. Rather than multiple theories thickening our understanding of the world they can potentially cause a large amount of uncertainty as when these conflicting theories are examined, their limitations can be exposed leading to more confusion. For instance, when studying the origins of World War 1, there are many theories and explanations that have been tampered with that when attempting to understand the true cause of the war it becomes immensely confusing. Various incompatible interpretations include; the theory that the arms race and intensive strengthening of the military across all European countries made WWI inevitable, others make a case for a hyper nationalistic populace being the main cause, another theory is that alliances established between European nations prior to the war enabled an environment in which the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand could result in a world war and millions of deaths. These are just a few of many theories explaining why the events of the first world war took place and coming to a general consensus amongst historians has proven to be quite impossible therefore causing a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding this topic. In summary, when retaining multiple theories explaining the causes of WWI, it is quite likely that one is subjected to a significant amount of uncertainty and confusion, therefore hindering our overall understanding of the event.

Furthermore, the area of knowledge, Ethics fundamentally similarly suggests that all theories have limitations and that there is a constant need for debating contrasting theories in order to understand the moral conflicts of our world. For instance, the two contrasting ethical theories, deontology and utilitarianism which depend on reasoning to give us a method for reaching justifying decisions demonstrate the need for multiple theories to give an understanding within a given area of knowledge. Deontology on one hand discusses the ethics and morality of action itself whereas utilitarianism deals with the ethics of an action solely considering the consequences. In medicine for example these theories are commonly used when attempting to ethically make decisions with deontology primarily concerning the individual patient and utilitarianism primarily concerning the overall societal consequences. When dealing with these conflicting ethical theories in medicine it has become apparent that both deontology and utilitarianism theories have their own limitations and strengths. Moreover, it has been a general reaction for specialists to be discontent when using either theory therefore, in order to achieve conformity in medical practice it is essential to balance both branches of ethics. This demonstrates the necessity of retaining multiple theories within the area of knowledge of Ethics as only when both deontology and utilitarianism are considered when making decisions can we fully understand the morality behind each decision.

On the contrary, however, multiple theories are not always required to provide a thurer understanding of AOK Ethics as in some perspectives theories may have no limitations. In some circumstances, one theory can be suitable for supplying a personal understanding of Ethics. For example, ethics and morals are densely examined in many religious frameworks commonly providing the faithful with one ethical theory. As illustrated in Christianity, the branch of Christian theology called Christian ethics acts as an ethical theory that dictates virtuous behavior against wrong behavior deriving from a Christian perspective. Having experienced only slight adaptations over thousands of years, Christian theology proves it has no limitations and can act as a suitable ethical theory for millions. Jewish ethics similarly follows a similar method of developing a single moral law which acts as a satisfactory ethical theory for all Jewish people. This theory is that one should base their behavior by that of their god, making god himself the paradigm. In summary, many religious people are often provided with a complete and accurate understanding of Ethics according to their own personal beliefs through the retainment of one theory.

Ultimately, retaining a multiplicity of theories has proven to be both beneficial and harmful to one’s understanding of the world. This was demonstrated when discussing the necessity of multiple histographic theories in order to understand the origins of the holocaust and the potential uncertainty caused by an excessive amount of contradicting theories explaining the origin of the first world war. Additionally, it was demonstrated that some theories are capable of successfully giving a full understanding in a specific AOK, in the sense that religious frameworks provided religious people with a complete understanding of ethics. Overall, however, due to the fact that all theories by nature have limitations, generally a multiplicity of theories are required in order to fully understand the world as seen in the example with the contrasting ethical theories of deontology and utilitarianism.   

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History and Ethics: Conflicting Theories in Areas of Knowledge. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from
“History and Ethics: Conflicting Theories in Areas of Knowledge.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
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