1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Monday, February 15, 2016

How to be critical of the past

The Guys Who Started It
Negativity is Not Enough
Reflecting on the nature of being an historian, John Lukacs writes the following: "The purpose of historical knowledge is more than accuracy; it is understanding" (The Hitler of History, p. 2). Understanding requires some degree of sympathy for the person, period or phenomenon one is investigating or it will remain a sterile (at best) inquiry or something borne aloft by negativity (see the "masters" above).

It was truly this lack of sympathy in James Loewen's Lies that made it unreadable - sensationalism has never appealed to me and he takes that tack not so much by what he writes, but what he fails to write.

Refutation for refutation's sake is sterile. Deconstruction alone never leads to construction. As Stephanie Mackler observes: "Although something new might arise after destruction, destruction itself does not aim toward anything but negation of what is (Learning for Meaning's Sake, p. 11). Since the past is all we know (Lukacs), we ought to treat it well and seek to understand it, not merely criticize it and thereby save ourselves from real self-scrutiny. 

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