This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
I don't know that much about Hannibal, so I find the analogy with the non-existence of Hannibal to be plausible as it is described. (I truly didn't know that so little historical evidence for Hannibal existed.)I think Hannibal is a great example, because it's exactly the kind of question that I think historians should (and usually do) grapple with -- to examine sources not simply for what they say, but in the context of the motives and situation of those who author those sources.Another great example of this phenomenon is the accounts of battles, in particular battles of the Middle Ages. As it turns out, most of the accounts of these battles are written decades and even a century or more after the fact, and are often written by those who wish to aggrandize or flatter a patron. Facts about the battles exist, but the written accounts are hardly definitive about what probably happened.
@Mr. Hoffman,"but in the context of the motives "Motives are never known with any level of certainty and they can only ever be guessed at by persons with motivations of their own.Original authors, scientists, historians and scholars...all have motivations. I infer from your response that you place a higher trust in the motivations of historians than you do original authors. Why?
Shackleman: "Motives are never known with any level of certainty and they can only ever be guessed at by persons with motivations of their own."True on motives never being known, and true that the interpreter has motives. But just because it's a tangled web doesn't mean it's unnavigable, or that we should fail to consider and examine those contexts. To do otherwise would make the field of history irrelevant.Shackleman: "I infer from your response that you place a higher trust in the motivations of historians than you do original authors. Why?"I think maybe you misunderstand me. I am simply saying that if one is to examine history one can't ignore the motivations and context of those who both author and interpret historical documents; that is part of what it is to study history. Absolutely historians should be able to provide a more accurate portrait of events than the documents of original authors alone. To say otherwise would be to prefer the Soviet version of history, for instance, over the more accurate, nuanced, and analytical version provided by historians who view the Soviet version within its full historical context.
Thanks. I understand you better and agree. We should all take a similarly measured approach, though, in my experience, some do not and instead assume that historians and scholars are completely impartial. They aren't.
Well, I agree accept for this part:"Absolutely historians should be able to provide a more accurate portrait of events than the documents of original authors alone."An eyewitness to an event, if they recount the events as honestly and accurately as they can, will always be more accurate than any recreation by any historian. While a historian can help us with surrounding details and context, they cannot say anything more valuable with respect to the singular event than the direct eyewitness account.
Shackleman: "An eyewitness to an event, if they recount the events as honestly and accurately as they can, will always be more accurate than any recreation by any historian. While a historian can help us with surrounding details and context, they cannot say anything more valuable with respect to the singular event than the direct eyewitness account."Yeah, again, another misundersanding I think. What I mean is that given 1) a document from an eyewitness only, and 2) the same document but with a historian who can also add context, you get a fuller picture with the second. That's all.
Agreed. I must be rushing while at work.Have a good weekend.
I think the recent discovery, or possible discovery, of the lost city of Atlantis is analogous to the historicity of the historical Jesus. Here is what I said in a previous post here entitled "Were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the first novelists?" Here is what I said:"I'm not convinced that "myths", in every case, are always false accounts. Take, for example, the case of the lost city of "Atlantis", of which Plato especially mentions in one of his dialogues. Was there ever really such a city? Perhaps there was!!My reason for making this initial comment was based on an implausible notion among Atlantian skeptics who have maintained that Plato was using Atlantis merely as a literary device....and that the true importance of Atlantis had nothing to do with it's historical reality but, rather, what it was supposed to represent to Plato's readership.I find it incredible that a "fictional" city would hold any significance to a civilization that never, in fact, had any rudimentary knowledge of it. Even Homer's "epics" bear stamps of real places, persons and cultures in the midst of his spinning yarn. Likewise, it would be wholly odd for Plato to interject some unimaginable novelty involving an extra-terrestrial coup-de-tat of Macedonia--by a warmongering race of Alpha Centaurians--to a civilization that had no way of knowing there was any such thing as Alpha Centauri!!Note: Perhaps there was some oral tradition about Atlantis that was codified in a literary "Quelle", of which Plato's account borrows heavily from. Ohhh...see how easy it is to be a higher critic.Be that as it may, it looks like archaeologists may have actually discovered this island city that was--it is conjectured--buried under a massive Tsunami; thus, possibly confirming Plato's "historical" reckoning.Therefore, "myths" have the possibility of being "factual".Here's a link to the MSNBC article on the Atlantis discovery:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42072469/ns/technology_and_science-science/
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