Construction and Synthesis

  • Jerzy Topolski
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 88)


The establishing of facts and causal explanation is to be distinguished from text construction, that is, formulation of answers to basic research questions; in the latter procedure explanations and statements about established facts are used as structural elements from which the building which is the answer to a given research question is constructed. The basic research question, as distinct from derivative ones, is that to which all other questions posed during a given research work are somehow subordinated. In a given case there may be more such basic questions than one; the principal among them is the question included in the formulation of the (working or final) title of the study. It is inessential, and rather rare, for such a title to be followed by a query; in most cases the title is just L’Age de Louis XIV (Voltaire), Der achtzehnte Bru- maire des Louis Bonaparte (Marx), or La Cité antique (Foustel de Cou-langes), etc., because each such title may be changed into an interrogative (factographic or explanatory) sentence.


Small Social System Economic History Historical Research Territorial Unit Structural Synthesis 
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  1. 1.
    This is a manifestation of the general principle, which had been emphasized by Karl Mane, that “there is no history without theory”. The realization of this fact has by now become universal, and the principle is being stressed by all theorists and all historians concerned with theoretical issues. Cf. R. Aron, “Theories and facts are integrated in such a manner that one would attempt in vain to separate them rigorously”(in: Evidence and Inference in History, D. Ler-ner (ed.), Glencoe 1959, p. 19); W. H. Costes, “Relativism and the Use of Hypotheses in History”, The Journal of Modern History, vol. XXI, No. 1/1949, p. 26; J. Adamus, “Every person has a synthetic (view of the past), which he realizes or not, and which he has worked out for himself or naively taken over from some authorities on the subject”(O kierunkach polskiej myśli historycznej (Trend in Polish Historiosophy), Łódź 1964, pp. 42-3). The problem was treated more extensively in connection with the analysis of non-source-based knowledge.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. M. H. Serejski, Koncepcja historii powszechnej Joachima Lelewela (Joachim Lelewel’s Idea of Universal History), Warszawa 1958.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    He made several statements on the issue (from 1925 on); cf. his Historia gospodarcza Polski (An Economic History of Poland), vol. I, Poznan 1946, pp. 15–20. His idea was criticized by W. Kula in Problemy i metody historii gospodarczej (Problems and Methods in Economic History), pp. 195ff. See also J. Topolski, “O zagadnieniu syntezy w historii gospodarczej”(The Problem of Synthesis in Economic History), Roczniki Dziejow Spolecznych i Gospodar-czych, vol. XXVI, Poznan 1965, pp. 260-5.Google Scholar
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    W. Kula, op. cit., p. 173.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Concerning the Middle Ages see T. Manteuffel, Średniowiecze powszechne (A Universal History of the Middle Ages), Warszawa 1961, Introduction. See also H. Sée, “La division de l’histoire en périodes”, Revue de la Synthèse Historique, vol. XLVI, Series XVI, Paris 1926, pp. 61-7; he quotes E. Troeltsch (Der Historismus und seine Probleme, Tübingen 1922), who holds that period-ization reflects a given historian’s philosophy of values. Sée thinks that period-ization contributes to an explanation of facts. Thus the opinion that periodiza-tions play a role in historical interpretations has been gradually gaining ground in the various schools of historiography. Many comments on periodization are to be found in E. Callot, Ambiguités et antinomies de l’histoire, Paris 1962, pp. 109-16.Google Scholar
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    E. Huntington, The Pulse of Progress, New York 1926.Google Scholar
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    S. Kurowski, Historyczny proces wzrostu gospodarczega (The Historical Process of Economic Growth), Warszawa 1963, p. 37Google Scholar
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    Cf. M. Eliade, Le Mythe de l’éternel retour, Paris 1949. The same issues, though in a slightly different context, are discussed by S. Ossowski, “Prawa ‘historyczne’ w socjologii”(‘Historical’ Laws in Sociology), Przegląd Filozoficz-ny, vol. XXXVIII, 1935, pp. 3–32.Google Scholar
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    This idea is analysed by S. Ossowski, op. cit., pp. 3-12.Google Scholar
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    We may speak about a theory of socio-economic formation only if we mean a mechanism of transition from one formation to the next. If we have to do only with a listing and a description of the various formations (possibly in the order in which they usually follow one another), then we may speak only about their typology.Google Scholar
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    The biographical method in sociology was discussed by J. Szczepański; cf. “Die biographische Methode”in: Handbuch der empirischen Sozialforschung, ed. cit., pp. 551-69, where also the major works on the subject are listed.Google Scholar
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    In Polish historiography we have an example of such a modern monograph in A. Kersten’s book on Stefan Czarniecki (Warszawa 1963). His work gave rise to an interesting discussion on monographs of individuals.Google Scholar
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    On small social systems see R. Redfield, The Little Community, Chicago 1955, and also J. Topolski, “Problemy metodologiczne monograficznych badan wsi”(Methodological Problems of Monographic Studies of Villages), Kwartal-nik Historii Kultury Materialnej, No. 2/1966.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    For a broad treatment of the subject matter see B. Leénodorski, Jakobini polscy (The Polish Jacobins), Warszawa 1963. The group which he studies obviously formed a small social system, but it is shown by Leśnodorski in the context of many larger systems. In such a case an apparently micro-synthetic approach becomes macrosyntheticGoogle Scholar

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© PWN - Polish Scientific Publishers - Warszawa 1976

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  • Jerzy Topolski

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