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Forum LockedEuropean way to world primacy.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 15:21
Thank you Constantine for reflecting back in the grand manner of a Cervantesque foil. After all, this thread's title--European Way to World Primacy--does encapsule the persistence of an attitude that says much about the intelligentzia but damned little about the integrity of historical epochs and the multiplicity of influences that shaped the mosaic of being. Yet, are you not being a bit harsh upon the players and observers of those epochs?
 
For example, you wrote: "Except in the realm of pop history or fiction, most academics with a brain would not declare the existence of such a thing these days on the scale of Ranke or Gibbon." It just happens that at this very moment, John Grenville Agard Pocock--who I am afraid to warn you is far from brainless--is attempting just that and employing the writings and encounters of Gibbon to encapsulate the era we have under discussion: Barbarism and Religion. To this day, I remain fascinated with his The Machiavellian Moment and its masterly integration that introduced contextualism, which in a way adhered strictly to the warning set forth by Burckhardt. This historian from "Down Under", he's a Kiwi, does embody the "cultural" tradition" in historiography but in something a bit more durable than pots, sherds, and diets. For him Gibbon's writings are a historical artifact speaking not so much about Rome while telling of the era that produced the historian, as you astutely observed in your summation on Gibbon and my observations. 
 
Not that the debate within historical study is settled with regard to who the historian: the generators of the endless monographs that kill the most trees and sit unread in the journals lining the library shelves or the producers of grand syntheses composed with panache and avidly read by the public at large? History can be highly readable, but it is most unfortunate that the greater number of its professional practitioners can not compose a pleasurable turn-of-phrase much less a cogent paragraph absent the interjection of material best consigned to appendices and notes. One can readily assert that it is the latter group of historians that provoke the Muse Clio in all of us. For example, the pivotal work of Johan Huizinga--The Waning of the Middle Ages--illustrates how a "cultural" historian can wake up "academia"; yet this very literate and astute historian himself warned in his essay "The Task of Cultural History" that the historian should resist the attempt to make history entertaining and amusing and wrote: "No literary effect in the world can compare to the pure sober taste of history". Nevertheless, in "The Aesthetic Element in Historical Thought" he also wrote: "The historian tries to re-experience what was once experienced by men like ourselves...[for the]...true study of History involves our imagination and conjures up conceptions, pictures, visions." For him this responsibility, aesthetic thinking, warned of the aridity behind any attempt and making the writing of history "scientific".
 
In closing, Constantine, do you not think you are being too harsh on old Fernand? The sins you assign him belong more to his "disciples" although the English have still not forgiven him for labeling the 16th century the "Age of Philip II"LOL . If you wish to put forth an example of bastardized history at the hands of the "linguistically and culturally constructed" no better name can be put forth than Noam Chomsky.


Edited by drgonzaga - 04-Jun-2009 at 15:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 15:46
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

A reason for special attention towards the relationship between history (and related disciplines) on the one hand, and what we can label loosely "geographical and environmental disciplines" on the other could be the "danger" of growing distance to reality, especially "past reality", loosing a possible path to understand. One reason to this of course is the growing "artificial world", that may make us unaware of anything else. especially academics in universities, but now more and more the majority of us.
Topics from this debate as Byzantine and Roman history are as far as I see it very reated to their location, natural surroundings etcetera (Self evident? yes, but perhaps less so the less related we are to our own "natural" surroundings).
 
The problem here, fantasus, is that when the "sciences" embark upon the vessel of historical narrative they often lower the sails of determinism. That is, geographic or economic or whatever other discipline is upon the sea makes inevitable the flow of human action. Yet in your critique of academia and its "artificial world" are you not just simply iterating the old bugbear known as the "ivory tower". Even the life of the "isolate" is a personal choice, and no one is condemned to the hermitage of their own minds at the expense of living it. The danger here derives from imposing one's own choices [ideas, conclusions, views] as dictats upon others. If any sin can be assigned to contemporary Higher Education, that transgression is scientism since the prime responsibility of any and all educators is the transmission of tools that facilitate the capacity for thought and not what to think!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 17:45
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

A reason for special attention towards the relationship between history (and related disciplines) on the one hand, and what we can label loosely "geographical and environmental disciplines" on the other could be the "danger" of growing distance to reality, especially "past reality", loosing a possible path to understand. One reason to this of course is the growing "artificial world", that may make us unaware of anything else. especially academics in universities, but now more and more the majority of us.
Topics from this debate as Byzantine and Roman history are as far as I see it very reated to their location, natural surroundings etcetera (Self evident? yes, but perhaps less so the less related we are to our own "natural" surroundings).
 
The problem here, fantasus, is that when the "sciences" embark upon the vessel of historical narrative they often lower the sails of determinism. That is, geographic or economic or whatever other discipline is upon the sea makes inevitable the flow of human action.
 I may agree there is a potential danger of such "determinism".
Perhaps I could use some of the discussed topics as examples: The roles of the cities of Rome and Constantinople (or Byzantium, Istanbul), though Athens, Alexandria or even Jerusalem could be other examples to discuss. On the one hand we have Rome, that owes its outstanding position in world History not to one single person. It is hard for me not to ask if there was something extraordinary about the very location, that contributed vastly to its "succes". On the other hand Constantinople, also located at a very special place, but "founded" as imperial capital by one man. I don´t necesarrily see this choice as something "predetermined" (or find it perhaps nearly an absurd idea), but on the other once this decicion were made there was very good reaon it became more of a succes than other Capitals (Did not Diocletian reside in Split, and other late emperors in Ravenna?)
 
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

 Yet in your critique of academia and its "artificial world" are you not just simply iterating the old bugbear known as the "ivory tower".
 
 
 
 Even the life of the "isolate" is a personal choice, and no one is condemned to the hermitage of their own minds at the expense of living it. The danger here derives from imposing one's own choices [ideas, conclusions, views] as dictats upon others. If any sin can be assigned to contemporary Higher Education, that transgression is scientism since the prime responsibility of any and all educators is the transmission of tools that facilitate the capacity for thought and not what to think!
It is about a lot more than any "Ivory Tower", and it is from my point of view not only a problem for "academia", but for nearly everybody(if we see it as a problem to lose insight)!
It is the changes in "lifestyle" and even the surrounding landscapes. As simple a task as determining "distances" in the past seems not to be so simple at all (the "real distance" seen not as miles or kilometres, but as the time and effort it takes, the dangers and costs.)
Do I exaggerate the importance of this topic about human mobility (just one aspect of geography)? I don´t think so, since any culture, any people needs at least some inne mobility of peoples, ideas, informations and material. (of course there could not even be people in the first place in any inaccesible region).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 18:47
At the risk of sounding trite, fantasus, is not even distance relative? Certainly in the Information Age, where impersonal contact is possible between far-reaches at a wink of an eye, does not the gem still get lost amidst the mountain of discardable shavings? Just a simple perusal of the Internet would lead one to believe that witches and witchcraft are an integral part of modern life or that Atlantis still stands at the crossroads of civilization! Nevertheless, in entertaining these musings were are moving far off the road paved for this discussion. Not so long ago, the posit of dispersion stood at the nexus of scholarly theory--take it as a variant of speculations on Origins--yet today, one must accept the fact that ideas and methods or even technology can arise at different places as a consequence of encountering similar problems with solutions brought forth that are near identical but the possibility of communication being the source of the parallel remote.
 
Herein, the subject touches upon Europe and a nebulosity called "primacy". Was the map-making in the Berlin of 1881 a reality for the daily life of most sub-Saharan Africans? The maps looked good, what with all the shades of pink, purple, yellow and green, but little else may be brought forth as historical conclusion or even novelty. The practitioners of geo-politics today speak of Somalia as a "failed state", how can something fail that existed solely as a consequence of European fantasies?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 19:20
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

At the risk of sounding trite, fantasus, is not even distance relative?
Nevertheless, in entertaining these musings were are moving far off the road paved for this discussion.
 Noone has suggested You are far off the road, but if someone press me hard enough they could force the truth out of me!
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Not so long ago, the posit of dispersion stood at the nexus of scholarly theory--take it as a variant of speculations on Origins--yet today, one must accept the fact that ideas and methods or even technology can arise at different places as a consequence of encountering similar problems with solutions brought forth that are near identical but the possibility of communication being the source of the parallel remote.
 
Sorry, but I do not grasp the revolutionary implications.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 23:05
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Thank you Constantine for reflecting back in the grand manner of a Cervantesque foil.


Sorry drgonzaga, I think you may have confused me with Byzantine Emperor.
It is not the challenges a people face which define who they are, but rather the way in which they respond to those challenges.

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