The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0047 Monday, 22 January 2007
From: Graham Bradshaw <
Date: Saturday, 20 Jan 2007 06:55:21 +0900
Subject: 18.0043 A Question
Comment: Re: SHK 18.0043 A Question
>John D. Cox writes: "Those who are suspicious of this enterprise
>can help the discussion by acknowledging presentism's first point:
>that we indeed cannot entirely shed our own identity when trying to
>understand the past."
>Scot Zarela replies: "Why should this be acknowledged? Has it ever
>been seriously disputed? Who, exactly, has held that we (or anyone
>else for that matter) can entirely shed our own identity --- whether
>when trying to understand the past, or at any other time? Entirely?
>Surely whatever claim presentism aims to correct is itself more
>modest and more worth serious consideration than this suggests."
Oh, the whirligigs of time! Cox's comment and Zarela's rejoinder
reminded me of a passage in Herbert Butterfield's "The Whig
Interpretation of History" (1931): "The whig interpretation of history
is not merely the property of whigs and it is much more subtle than
mental bias; it lies in a trick of organisation, an unexamined habit of
mind that any historian may fall into... It is the result of the
practice of abstracting things from their historical context and judging
them apart from their context-- estimating them and organising the
historical story by a system of direct reference to the present." To
think of "presentists" as whiggish seems waggish, but, as Butterfield
also pointed out, "Whiggism" in its broader sense "describes the
attitude by which men of the Renaissance seem to have approached the
Middle Ages" and "the attitude of the 18th century to many a period of
the past" and is not tied to any particular political perspective.
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