Explaining historical conflict, with illustrations from 'emergent' Scottish Jacobitism

Hay, Frederick George (2017) Explaining historical conflict, with illustrations from 'emergent' Scottish Jacobitism. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3284096


The connecting premise of this study is that the explanation of human action, much of which involves conflict in various forms, is distinctive. It must address the singularity of actions (their attachment to specific moments) and its contingency (that different actions could plausibly have been taken instead). Both stem from the involvement of time in human action, such that its explanation must adopt the form of historiography.

Part One argues that the authority of explanation in the physical sciences does not extend to human action as it derives from successful physical demonstration in experiment or industrial replication, not from special epistemological warrant, processes inapplicable to human action; that the distinguishing involvement of human consciousness and the will to act introduces a particular awareness of the passage of time that confers timeliness to actions, while precluding full knowledge of the consequences of actions; that the social nature of human action involves the emergence of diverse groups that generate complex divisions between ‘we’ and ‘they’ that form the basis for conflict over the consequences of action; that resolving the conflict of warfare produces collective agreements to avoid future conflict; that this conflict can reach considerable levels of brutality and lethality even outside warfare; and that moral codes that might constrain such conflict have limited effectiveness.

Part Two illustrates the relevance of perspectives in reducing the complexities of reality to facilitate action, referring to categories appropriate to the emergence of Scottish Jacobitism in the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries: dynastic, religious, economic and military. It also suggests how contingency could be addressed through conjectures about the actions that might have been taken but were not.

Part Three suggests a basis in the role of expectations for the tendency of human perspectives on their context of action to change radically, and for actions to change accordingly as situations are seen ‘in a different light’.

At various points in the study use is made of an analogy drawn between the adversarial advocacies presented at a trial by jury and the general explanation of human action. This illuminates both the fact that different perspectives on the same evidence can yield contrary explanations and that all explanation of human action necessarily confronts a problem of reflexivity: the perspectives of agents have to be represented through the perspectives of those seeking to explain their actions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Historical epistemology, conflict studies, Scottish history.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Banks, Dr. Iain
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Mr Frederick G Hay
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8479
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2017 13:32
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2017 13:56
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/8479

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