Don Denton Article uploaded
- In the light of the discussion prompted by references here to Don
Denton's work on historiography and HJ studies, I am pleased to announce
that I have uploaded to our Articles for Review Page the recent paper on
these matters that Don presented recently at the SBL .
List Members may access it at:
I hope it will provoke fruitful discussion.
P.S. Please note that the article is copyrighted to Don. Permission to
quote it outside of the confines of XTalk must be secured from the
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois 60626
- At 07:18 PM 4/1/2002 -0600, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
>In the light of the discussion prompted by references here to DonA belated thanks to Don and Jeffrey for posting this. My response has been
>Denton's work on historiography and HJ studies, I am pleased to announce
>that I have uploaded to our Articles for Review Page the recent paper on
>these matters that Don presented recently at the SBL .
>List Members may access it at:
>I hope it will provoke fruitful discussion.
>P.S. Please note that the article is copyrighted to Don. Permission to
>quote it outside of the confines of XTalk must be secured from the
delayed by such things as death (of an uncle) and taxes, the eternal
verities. Now that I have had time to read Don's article, I strongly
recommend it, and hope that he publishes it.
The general theme is "objectivity" and what it means in light of our
current state of awareness. For example, what can it mean to be "objective"
about the historical Jesus? The answer is not as simple as we used to think.
Don examines the work of Dom Crossan and Ben Meyer regarding this issue.
Which brings me to my first question:
Crossan's chosen method is "Interactivism," by which he means "The past
and the present must interact with one another, each
changing and challenging the other, and the ideal is an absolutely fair and
equal reaction between one another."
Interestingly, Meyer's Critical Realism also depends on interaction, but in
his case Denton uses the word "reciprocal," and the reciprocity is between
the historian and her data.
I wonder if these two positions actually bear more similarity than is first
apparent? For example, what on earth does Crossan mean by "The past and
the present must interact with one another, each changing and challenging
the other, and the ideal is an absolutely fair and equal reaction between
one another"? One can easily see how the past affects the present, but it
is not so readily apparent how the present affects the past, because of the
unique directionality of time. Of course, what is left out of the one
sentence quote is the role of the *historian:* it is the *historian* in the
present who, interacting with the data of the past, re-shapes her (and then
our) understanding of the past. Is this not what Crossan means?
So aren't they really making the same point, or have I totally
misunderstood the situation?
Second question: I have a sense of deja vu in reading about these issues.
Lurking(?) in the background is the myth that history is a purely inductive
enterprise, and that as one collects the data, "The Greek Stones Speak," in
the words of Paul McKendrick. But it is rather old news to point out that
this is never done. In the words of systems theorists, a collection of data
is just a "heap" (that's a technical word in system-speak) that does not by
itself make any sense. In the language of the 1960s(?), the process of
induction is inevitably accompanied by a parallel process of deduction,
which imposes order on the "heap" by arranging the data according to
current theoretical notions (or less sophisticated understandings). The
mantra of the 1960s was that the only honest thing to do was to make
explicit the theoretical notions you were using to organize your data,
including the assumptions on which the theories were based. Of course it is
the scientist or historian who decides *which* theoretical notions to use
in organizing the data. And no one was really saying first you should do
induction, and then when you're finished, do Deduction, or vice versa.
There was widespread(?) recognition that the process was reciprocal
("Feedback" was the systems terminology usually applied to that process).
I also suggest examination of Denton's use of the word "question," which
plays an important role in his analysis. We all know how questions shape
discourse. The classic example of "When did you stop beating your wife?"
illustrates how assumptions and conclusions can be built into questions, so
that the very act of asking a question is not a naive matter, but
presupposes many things. Furthermore, most of us are aware that a *good*
question is worth quite a few mediocre "answers." [BTW, this principle has
been amply demonstrated on this list, and its HarperCollins predecessor,
many times over. However, I suppose a better authority would be
Socrates.] So one must also think about the nature of questioning. The
1960s answer was that questions are drawn from theoretical understandings
that may or may not be implicit. Which brings us again to the interaction
between induction and deduction.
So have we really made progress here, or have we just found new words to
describe an already well-known phenomenon?
I also found Denton's analysis of Carr and the important role of teleology
in historical inquiry quite relevant and interesting. It was my impression
that critical scholarship "frowned" on such things, but if Carr is right
that teleology is unavoidable [i.e., that we cannot and perhaps should not
"bracket" our beliefs when we work as scholars], then perhaps it must be
dealt with differently. At first glance, it seems to me that Carr's
teleology is a subspecies of the larger issue of deductive inquiry, but I
could be wrong about that.
In short, I sense that a parallel course has been taken in philosophy of
science and philosophy of history that addresses many of the same issues,
with in many ways similar results, but that these currents take place
mostly in ignorance of each other, and that there are few people equally
conversant with both who can also speak well to both streams of philosophy.
There are important consequences for historical Jesus research.
So thanks, Don, for a very interesting article.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]