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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Presentism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0828  Wednesday, 19 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 23:10:00 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

[2] 	From:	William Sutton <
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	Date:	Monday, 17 Dec 2007 01:02:21 -0800 (PST)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

[3] 	From:	Alan Horn <
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	Date:	Monday, 17 Dec 2007 05:10:58 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

[4] 	From:	R. A. Cantrell <
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	Date:	Monday, 17 Dec 2007 07:14:38 -0600
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

[5] 	From:	Joseph Egert <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 18 Dec 2007 12:57:54 -0800 (PST)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Sunday, 16 Dec 2007 23:10:00 -0500
Subject: 18.0841 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

John Drakakis warns us against seeking historical reality and condemns 
those who believe in it as political troglodytes:

 >Denying the absolute objectivity of 'truth' does not lead
 >us into R.A. Cantrell's very odd kind of intellectual
 >paralysis (the characteristic response of a politically
 >reactionary stance, if ever I saw one).

Not a model of clarity to be sure, but this statement becomes a little 
more lucid (and, consequently, more easily refutable) if we cancel the 
double negative: Intellectual paralysis (equated here with political 
reaction) results from insisting that truth has objective reality.

I suppose, therefore, that the alternative is to be sought after: A 
formless relativism, subjecting a rudderless, anchorless ship of state 
to the vagaries of whatever popular winds are prevailing.

I do not question that the knowledge of truth (not the ideal of truth) 
is often uncertain. But that should not impel us to give up the concept 
or abandon the search to ascertain it as reliably as possible. As Alan 
Horn puts it:

 >"No doubt [no 'construction of the past'] will ever be
 >definitive, and it is helpful to keep this warning in
 >mind. But just because such understanding is never
 >absolute-just because [as Hugh Grady had put it]
 >it 'never completely succeed[s]'-does not mean it is
 >not useful nevertheless."

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		William Sutton <
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Date:		Monday, 17 Dec 2007 01:02:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 18.0841 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

Ah but do we want to be in presentism's capable hands? Or rather why on 
earth would we want to be? It's not exactly the Secret is it? How many 
other scholars on this discussion group are endorsing it outside of the 
usual suspects?

Terry Hawkes makes it sound as palatable and appealing as 3-month-old 
biscuit without the weevils. Leashed in like hounds at his heels are 
John D and William G.  defending the propagator's pithy retorts and 
scathing apothegms. Boy do I feel dumb when you chaps weigh in.

I'm starting to believe that defense of theory such as presentism in 
this case is the dividing line between the amateur and the professional 
scholar.

In the words of the 1970's popgroup 10cc let's:

  'agree to disagree, but disagree to part,
  when after all it's just a compromise
of the things we do for love'.

yours in the name of Will,
W. Sutton

http://blog.iloveshakespeare.com

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Alan Horn <
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Date:		Monday, 17 Dec 2007 05:10:58 -0500
Subject: 18.0841 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

 >[Joe Egert's] hastily amended version, 'venturing to learn what is
 >plausible and increasingly probable in our representations', crudely
 >gives the game away. To replace 'truth' with whatever 'is plausible'
 >or 'increasingly probable' is a shattering admission, and places him
 >in Presentism's capable hands.

Talk about "giving the game away." For Terence Hawkes there is no point 
in seeking a more accurate, more detailed, more complex, more 
comprehensive picture of the past-one which, after all, may be enriched 
as well as distorted, supplemented as well as limited by our alien 
perspective. The truism that historical understanding is necessarily 
relational is a "shattering" concession. He sets up an inappropriate, 
metaphysical ideal of absolute truth, no approximation to which can be 
anything more than another species of error-so why bother?

Alan Horn

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		R. A. Cantrell <
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 >
Date:		Monday, 17 Dec 2007 07:14:38 -0600
Subject: 18.0841 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

 >And with Hugh Grady's strictures in mind, you might like to have a read
 >of the section on 'Repetition' in Gilles Deleuze's book 'Difference and
 >Repetition'. I think that when you do, you will see that the
 >relationship between past and present isn't quite as straightforward as
 >you seem to think. Add to that Bill Godshalk's suggestion that Montaigne
 >should figure on the reading list too, and we are back in business again.

You might note that while looking at these you are not looking at 
Shakespeare, one hopes.

 >On the matter of Terence Hawkes alleged 'scepticism', it seems pretty
 >healthy to me,

You still will not recognize your confusion of dubitation with the 
Formal Skeptic's system of argument.

 >R.A. Cantrell's very odd kind of intellectual paralysis (the
 >characteristic response of a politically reactionary stance, if ever I
 >saw one).

You only just, and artlessly, avoid the ad hominem.

 >Let me emphasise for what I hope will be the last time, that
 >the study of 'presentist' Shakespeare does NOT mean an abandonment of
 >the past:

 >But it does abandon Shakespeare
 >it does mean - and here Deleuze is very helpful- that we have
 >to think seriously about how the past is constructed as a series of
 >'presents'... And that's just the beginning. Historians, particularly
 >continental European historians, have been aware of this for some time,
 >and it is about time that those working within the discipline of English
 >Studies took it a little more seriously than they do.
 >
 >I'll step down off my soapbox now.

Don't trip

A merry festive season to all,

Now here is a very well articulated political posture (lacking the 
strength of a stance).

John Drakakis

Hugh Grady writes of R. A. Cantrell's previous post:

 >"[A]ll of this is contentless blustering that does nothing toward
 >advancing the discussion beyond whatever relief the writer gets from
 >blowing off the hot air."
 >
 >
 >This is unfair. The remarks cited, though provocatively phrased,
 >certainly do aim to "advance the discussion"-unlike Hugh Grady's, which
 >are merely dismissive.
 >
 >He adds: "And might I suggest that one paragraph on epistemology is not
 >likely to be very illuminating in the first place?"
 >
 >R. A. Cantrell's point, as I took it, was not to take issue with a
 >particular formulation but to question the insertion of epistemology, by
 >Hugh Grady and others, into discussion of a program for practical
 >scholarship. The suggestion is that the purpose of doing so can only be
 >obscurantist.
 >
 >As I understand it, R. A. Cantrell was trying to reinforce a point made
 >recently by others and back in June by me in a late contribution to the
 >Roundtable, which Hugh Grady did not bother to reply to either:
 >
 >"No doubt [no 'construction of the past'] will ever be definitive, and
 >it is helpful to keep this warning in mind. But just because such
 >understanding is never absolute-just because [as Hugh Grady had put it]
 >it 'never completely succeed[s]'-does not mean it is not useful
 >nevertheless."
 >
 >Alan Horn

Thank you Alan. It is good to know that there are those capable of 
understanding what I am trying to say, and in your case, abler to 
express themselves in a civil manner.

Even Joe Egert must finally be aware that his claim to seek 'the truth,

 >the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, despite our limitations' is
 >wholly absurd. I repeat: our 'limitations' are exactly those which
 >deprive us of the truth. T. Hawkes

No matter how many times Terry repeats and repeats and repeats the Trope of
Certitude, he will not expend the energy to actually look into what he is
doing. He is a meddlesome priest.

-- All the best, R.A. Cantrell

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Joseph Egert <
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Date:		Tuesday, 18 Dec 2007 12:57:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 18.0841 Presentism
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0841 Presentism

For my sins, John Drakakis recommends I read Deleuze. Deleuze? I put it 
to you, John: the truly intelligent reader, after much wasted time and 
effort, will come to recognize his nigh 400 pages of densely opaque 
lucubrations, when not truisms, are mostly circular gibberish, exceeded 
only in his other works. The Rabbis of olde used to warn any student 
contemplating immersion in Kabbalah as risking their sanity. They had 
not yet encountered Deleuze. Deleuze merely restates for cognition what 
his alter ego O'Brien says for politics in two phrases: "Who rules the 
past rules the future. Who rules the present rules the past." 
(Reminiscent of anyone?).

May I return the favor, John, by recommending you read, as a detoxicant, 
Professor of Physics Alan Sokal (he of the Sokal Hoax and himself a 
proud man of the left). Sokal, in FASHIONABLE NONSENSE (1998), 
emphasizes Deleuze's "lack of clarity", his employment of terminology 
"out of context and without any apparent logic", his statements 
"meaningless or sometimes acceptable but banal and confused", his 
erudition vast but "very superficial", his discourse oscillating 
"between nonsense and truisms",and so many of his passages absurd and 
utterly "devoid of meaning".

And one semantic quibble, John. The past itself is not "constructed as a 
series of 'presents'" though its representations often are (there's that 
truism again), anxiously waiting for Terry Hawkes to dismantle them. 
Also, John, please continure reporting to us periodically whether we're 
moving forward or backward, and how you distinguish the two.

Terence Hawkes is back, his hands duly washed (did the stain come out, 
Terry?) and still brandishing his now-blunted blade against truth. He 
writes:

 >"Even Joe Egert must finally be aware that his claim to seek 'the truth,
 >the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, despite our limitations' is
 >wholly absurd. I repeat: our 'limitations' are exactly those which
 >deprive us of the truth. His hastily amended version, 'venturing to
 >learn what is plausible and increasingly probable in our
 >representations', crudely gives the game away. To replace 'truth' with
 >whatever 'is plausible' or 'increasingly probable' is a shattering
 >admission, and places him in Presentism's capable hands."

Terry, in the light of your chastisement permit me to amend once more my 
meaning for your benefit and that of your acolytes:

It is the necessary object of scholarship, by reasoning together, to 
seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, despite any 
and all limitations or obstacles. Who does not engage in this quest is 
no scholar, by definition.

Is that better, Terry? Once again you and your fellow travelers 
resurrect from the ashes the same straw man. In fact, we look upon the 
influence of the present sitz on our representations as an elementary 
truism, carried to a defeatist extreme by your ungrounded self-refuting 
noncense version of presentism. And Terry, why do you confuse "seek" and 
"find"? After all, were truth immediately available to us, there would 
be no need for scholars to learn and teach how best to approach it. 
N'est ce-pas?

So sheathe thy sword, Terence Hawkes, before you injure yourself any 
further. And let true scholarship flourish.

Humbly yours,
Joe Egert

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