Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge Dissertation

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¶ … Henry Thomas Buckle's original 1858 discourse concerning the contributions of women to the progress of knowledge to determine how relevant these concepts remain today, and to expand on his origins premise that although women reason differently from men, the contributions to the progress of knowledge made by women over the centuries are worthy of further study today. To this end, the study examines different types of knowledge and how women have affected progress in these domains through a critical review of the relevant literature, including open source media such as Wikipedia, but peer-reviewed and scholarly sources as well. A summary of the research and a synthesis of the findings are presented in the study's conclusion concerning the contributions of women to the progress of knowledge in the years since Buckle's original discourse.

Table of Contents


Statement of the Problem

Purpose of Study

Research Question

Importance of Study

Rationale of Study

Overview of Study

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Chapter 3: Methodology

Description of the Study Approach

Data-gathering Method and Database of Study

Chapter 4: Data Analysis

Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations


Chapter 1:

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Dissertation on Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge Assignment

In reality, the argument can easily be made that without women, humankind would not be around to pursue knowledge in the first place. Indeed, the nurturing and romantic side of womankind is consistently cited by male authorities as being some of the attributes that have kept humankind from completely destroying itself. Beyond these biological-based arguments, though, other authorities have also weighed in on women's contribution to the progress of knowledge. For example, on March 19, 1858, Henry Thomas Buckle delivered a speech at the Royal Institution in which he described the fundamental contributions made by women to the progress of human knowledge. In this discourse, Buckle also made the point that women and men are "hard-wired" to reason differently. At this discourse, Henry Thomas Buckle was trying to prove women are scientifically deductive and man is also scientifically designed to be inductive, both are DNA'd, so to speak, to work in a united fashion to solve daily problems and advance the knowledge of humankind in ways that could not be attained otherwise. Although this synergistic effect remains better described than understood, Mr. Buckle explains that, "First, that women naturally prefer the deductive method to the inductive. Secondly [sic], that women by encouraging in men deductive habits of thought, have rendered an immense, though unconscious, service to the progress of knowledge, by preventing scientific investigators from being as exclusively inductive as they would otherwise be."

This supportive dissertation updates Buckle's thesis and to include modern sources expressing their agreement or disagreement with Buckle's propositions. From Buckle's perspective, women's role has been limited but important and the potential for expansion of these contributions is clear. According to Neuman (2003), the deductive method is "an approach to inquiry or social theory in which one begins with abstract ideas and principles then works towards concrete empirical details to test the ideas" (p. 533). The encyclopedic entry for the term states that the deductive method is ". . . The process of reasoning from one or more general statements regarding what is known to reach a logically certain conclusion. Deductive reasoning involves using given true premises to reach a conclusion that is also true. Deductive reasoning contrasts with inductive reasoning in that a specific conclusion is arrived at from a general principle. If the rules and logic of deduction are followed, this procedure ensures an accurate conclusion" (Deductive method, 2012, para. 1).

Deductive reasoning is widely regarded as being a skill that can be acquired individually outside of a classroom or absent formal training (Deductive method, 2012), Consequently, secondary schools do not typically offer any instruction in deductive reasoning. The preference for deductive approaches by women is understandable, perhaps, given their historic (and continuing) disparate access to education around the world, but the issue as to whether women are innately deductive in ways that somehow help men use their naturally inductive reasoning abilities more effectively remains less clear. For instance, in contrast to the deductive method, the inductive method is "an approach to inquiry or social theory in which one begins with concrete empirical details then works towards abstract ideas or general principles" (Neuman, 2003, p. 537). The encyclopedia entry for this term states, "Inductive reasoning, also known as induction, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates general propositions that are derived from specific examples. Inductive reasoning contrasts with deductive reasoning, in which specific examples are derived from general propositions" (Inductive reasoning, 2012). Therefore, the case can be made that the entire range of human knowledge that is based on the scientific method is the result of this synergistic effect of women's deductive reasoning on men's inductive reasoning in innovative ways. In this regard, Buckle (1858) points out that:

The scientific inquirer, properly so called, that is, he whose object is merely truth, has only two ways of attaining his result. He may proceed from the external world to the internal; or he may begin with the internal and proceed to the external. In the former case he studies the facts presented to his senses, in order to arrive at a true idea of them; in the latter case, he studies the ideas already in his mind, in order to explain the facts of which his senses are cognizant. If he begin with the facts his method is inductive; if he begin with the ideas it is deductive. The inductive philosopher collects phenomena either by observation or by experiment, and from them rises to the general principle or law which explains and covers them. The deductive philosopher draws the principle from ideas already existing in his mind, and explains the phenomena by descending on them, instead of rising from them. (1848, para. 11)

Taken together, the concept of women reasoning in fundamentally different ways from men is a way of explaining their respective contributions to the progress of knowledge, a concept that directly relates to the purpose of this study which is discussed further below.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to revisit Henry Thomas Buckle's original 1858 discourse to determine how relevant these concepts remain today, and to expand on his origins premise that although women reason differently from men, the contributions to the progress of knowledge made by women over the centuries are worthy of further study in view of the changes that have taken place since that time. .

Research Question

This study was guided by the following research question: "How relevant are the concepts that Henry Thomas Buckle articulated in 1858 and what progress, if any, has been made in acknowledging the contributions of women to the progress of knowledge?"

Importance of Study

In John Gray's book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, the point is made that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental differences between the genders, which the author exemplifies by means of the book's eponymous metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets -- men from Mars and women from Venus -- and that each gender is acclimated to its own planet's society and customs, but not those of the other (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, 2012). These observations suggest that the duality that is involved in men and women's thought processes may lead to different perspectives and different ways of viewing the same issues, but that both perspectives are essential to developing a coherent and meaningful whole. In this regard, Oleinik (2005) emphasizes that, "Communication is always a difficult undertaking, especially in the social sciences, where paradigms as commonly accepted analytical frameworks play only a minor role. Alternative approaches to the same subject coexist, and the progress of knowledge results from a complex and difficult process of mutual criticism and the interplay of arguments and counterarguments" (p. 813). Therefore, to the extent that women's contributions to the progress of knowledge are discounted or ignored will likely be the extent to which the interplay of arguments and counterarguments will be diminished to the detriment of the body of knowledge.

Rationale of Study

Although feminists may go to some extremes in eliminating references to men in their writings, charging that the male-dominated society in which they live is already imbued with masculine overtones and the line must be drawn somewhere, but even conservative scholars concede that much of what is contained in the historical record is encapsulated through a male worldview. For instance, some authorities maintain that, "Inherent in the study of women's history is the belief that more traditional recordings of history have minimized or ignored the contributions of women and the effect that historical events had on women as a whole; in this respect, woman's history is often a form of historical revisionism, seeking to challenge or expand the traditional historical consensus" (Women's history, 2012, para. 2).

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