Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Historian's Philosphical Commitments

“The very use of the idea of cause conceals philosophical commitments that the profession seldom addresses. If we wish to consider the Babylonian captivity of the kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C. , we shall find sufficient documentation and archaeological evidence to speak of the political, economic, social, and military causes of the debacle. But Hebrew prophets said that it took place because God’s judgment had fallen on the Judeans for their idolatry and wickedness. From that perspective, the “causes” that the historian’s explanation advances are not causes at all, but effects, and are thought to be causes only because of the meta-historical commitments that the historian brings to his evidence. For him history is “the whole show,” and therefore nothing lies beyond it to enter the historical stage and cause events to happen.” (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 22).

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