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Evidence in Humanities

It is often said that there is no answer to questions in humanities. The role of humanities is to suggest a method to think about questions without an answer. However, it is wrong to assume that there is no correct answer in humanities. There is a historical fact and thinkers and philosophers of the yesteryear surely had something to think about. Therefore, in our unit, we first aim to restore the original and to achieve correct understanding. For us, evidence is primary data such as inscriptions and manuscripts; in other words materials.
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In order to restore them as accurately as possible and to understand them, we need not only the acquisition of relevant languages but also broad knowledge and experience and deep insight. One cannot understand what is written without knowledge of the social and historical background to the writing. It is essential for researchers to work together and discuss together. There will be fewer errors if multiple eyes look at the material. As in the case of experiment, we reach a conclusion through repeated discussions.

At this stage, however, opposing views might emerge due to researchers’ capacity and other conditions. When we encounter a character that cannot be deciphered in a handwritten manuscript, we find external evidence (in other texts, for instance) and suggest an appropriate reading. However, it is not always the case that all researchers agree. Some may suggest an alternative. The same thing can be said about translation. It is often the case that the same sentence is translated differently. In other words, there is room for the reader’s ‘interpretation’ at the stage of basic work. Moreover, the researchers’ interpretation of the content of thought is not uniform and we always compete to prove that one’s own interpretation is correct by presenting appropriate evidence. This is why our research achievements are often published in a single-authored volume, not in a multi-authored one, and a single-authored volume that is based on original interpretation is more highly regarded. Meanwhile, an interpretation that fails to gain support from others will be discarded. Truly valuable research findings have to be accessible for researchers in other fields and for ordinary people. While it is impossible to prove that the answer be correct at 100%, we keep trying to approximate 100% as much as possible – these are achievements that we aim for.

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