The Intellectual Paucity of Historians

The other day – Good God, has it been three weeks already? – I wrote what was probably the worst post I’ve ever tossed up on this blog.  It was utter speculative nonsense, with no solid bases in Historical Fact, I made no real attempt to cite anything in it, and despite it’s High Probability of Truth it’s nothing to be proud of.

But you see, I had an ulterior motive in posting it; I am now going to use it as a vehicle to point out the intellectual paucity of most Historians.

***

Back in the day, I made the Mistake of taking History at University.  This is part of the reason I feel sympathy for the Occupussies, and it helped lead to the present Disgust I feel with the post-secondary shysters.

You see, here’s the thing; History ought not to be a joke-degree.

English is pure subjectivity; Art History is a minor at best; Sociology, PoliSci, and all their associated minors are nothing Ideology masquerading as Analysis.  But History?  When it’s done right, it’s a Science.

A handicapped Science, granted – there is certainly a deficit of experimentation – but when practiced professionally it involves data-collection and observation, hypothesization (which is then compared to new data), and finally theory.  The goal of history is to try and understand these aggregate-patterns that us oversexed chimps fall into, to develop a heuristic which informs us as to what data is relevant to the trends underway, and how to interpret the biases of ancient authors (and through those, realize which contemporary biases are informing us today).  There’s a lot of muddling, sure – but in the end, it’s a pursuit of an Objective Truth.

That’s the theory, anyway.

***

Let me tell you about my sister.  She wears the Mantle of the Feminist, while living the life of a Traditional Housewife.  Her husband’s a blue-collar Man’s Man, her children are well-disciplined and intelligent, she’s an amazing cook…

…and she insists on doing joke-degrees part-time.  Her current favourite is History.

So over the Christmas break, I tried to have a civil conversation with her; I shared the naescent hypothesis I wrote about last time, fully aware of her massive Hate-On for all things militaristic.  I figured a Historical Hypothesis which was anti-military (or at least, anti-joining-the-military-service) would acclimate well with her neural patterns.  However, before I could finish speaking she said-

“I think you have a very naive view of History.”

Rather than pointing out I had two years of Official Training over her, I responded with an articulate “Um, what?”

“When has war ever accomplished anything?”

“Alexander took over the known world.”

“And then his empire crumbled!”

“…Cleopatra had white skin because of him; he reshaped all of those regions.” She snorted. “Well, then what about Rome?  They re-wrote the pagan religions, spread a common language to all of Europe, built a system of highways, spread Christianity, and unified Europe into a common culture.”

“The Germans took them out!”

“800 years after it was founded!”

“Whatever, you’re just a war monger – and I’m a History Student!” At which point she stormed off.

This is why I tend to avoid family get-togethers.

***

Modern History isn’t about trying to understand our roots, or document the great events and turning points, or to understand the human condition; rather, the Modern Historian – like all of her sisters in the Dept. of Useless Degrees – already knows what The Truth is (after all, if Stephen J Gould and Noam Chompsky said it, it must be true!).  They have their Paradigm, their End Of History State, and if the facts contradict either of those – well, the facts must be biased!

It’s a sorry state of affairs.

Back in the early days of the War on Terror, when I was fledging Free Market Leftist, the schools weren’t quite so bad.  Nowadays Academia has been seeping in Leftist Juices for so long that well-known, and thoroughly proven Facts are Evil & Racist (even amongst STEM degrees majors!), but back then there was still a bit of critical thought going on…

A very little bit.

When I finally dropped out it wasn’t because of the incompetent professors (though I had more than a few of those); it was because of the incompetent students.

With a few rare exceptions, the student-body in most of my classes were the non-thinking, non-questioning, maybe-I’ll-teach-high-school morons.  Dull, doughy girls (and a few insipid, ballless boys) who sat still and wrote down every fact the Professor droned on about, without ever understanding the context; the Professor, for his part, uninspired by yet another Memorize and Regurgitate Student Body, simply skimmed the surface of the textbook.

What a contemptible lot they were.

The final straw was one professor used a BBC documentary to teach two-thirds of his classes during my final semester – I guess no-one ever told him that documentaries are entertainment, not education.

So that year I dropped out of University, quit the army, and moved out West.  My only regret is not doing it sooner.

If there’s any young kids out there, fascinated by the Deeper Questions of Humanity – philosophy, history, literature – by all means, pursue those interests.  Just don’t do it through the University System.  Best case scenario, you’ll live like my sister – enjoying and obeying all the dictates of the Patriarchy, while putting on airs of being a fashionable Leftist.  More likely, however, you’ll wind up impoverished, protesting a corporation for something they didn’t do.

Either way, you’ll remain ignorant, and you might even develop mental blocks against True Errudition.

I’ve learned more on my own, and through the Internet, than I ever did as a student.  You should only pay for education if there’s a trade certificate and a job in it for you; if it’s wisdom you seek, then the only true path is the Life of the Autodidact.

Never forget – the Devil was the first Whig.  In our modern world the Father of Lies is in charge of our Education.  Don’t drink the koolaid.

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Davis M.J. Aurini

Trained as a Historian at McMaster University, and as an Infantry soldier in the Canadian Forces, I'm a Scholar, Author, Film Maker, and a God fearing Catholic, who loves women for their illogical nature.

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3 Responses

  1. Simon says:

    Hmm…I have to disagree with almost everything in this post.

    History is not a science. It is an art. It will never produce Objective Truth.

    I know you’re a fan of Moldbug. Here he is quoting someone, and then adding his own thoughts:

    “”History really isn’t and shouldn’t be scientific, since you’re always dealing with particulars, unpredictable transformations, inadequate data, and so on. Just look at how a physicist or chemist works and how physical and chemical theories are constructed and tested, and then look at a historian.

    Using lots of scientific data or making materialist-naturalist-reductive hypotheses does not in itself make history scientific. You can call it critical history or naturalistic history, but it’s still literary in its overarching structure.”

    How can I possibly quarrel with someone who says things like this? Frankly, we need to stick together to protect ourselves from razib.”

    You’ve read Froude, too I assume. Here is an essay of his thoughts on the Science of History:

    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=7aMIho01TnMC&dq=inauthor%3A%22James%20Anthony%20Froude%22&pg=PP15#v=onepage&q&f=false

    It is the first one.

    History requires a theory with which to analyse human events. The thing is, this theory cannot be deduced by any human means. It’s given to us.

    Ed: Comments like this are why I blog. I get the impression that – though you might disagree with me – we’re on the same side. I admit, I somewhat use the term ‘science’ as a rhetorical device – mainly to remind the Historian that he’s got a duty and a responsibility to serve Truth as best he can.

  2. Simon says:

    I just realised you commented in my comment, lol.

    Yes, I believe that we are essentially on the same side, but it remains to be seen whether you will take the leap from atheism to Christianity, which is the most important step one can take in searching for truth, IMO.

  3. I too studied history.

    I went the full four years and got the degree, actually.

    My school was good and the professors in the department passionate and knowledgeable.

    Yet it was still more of a feeder program for academics and law students.
    Focus on perfect citations, and writing in perfect ‘unbiased’ academic style came before substance.

    I loved the subject material but chafed at the confines set by the community.
    You see, you can’t say anything big or meaningful unless you have incredibly solid sources and senior standing to back it up.
    And the slant on history was of course far to the left, which hugely limited the already small amount of exploration that would be tolerated.

    People who do history professionally are supposed to specialize and once they do so, they spend most of their time writing about points that have already been made by someone else in their field.
    Or they’ll desperately try to be ‘original’ and build a whole career on “Lesbian African American Jewish Women During the Civil Rights Movement” or some other irrelevant nonsense.

    The whole discipline, its academic journals start to look like a hundreds of pages long forum thread that should have died long ago with people trying to reply to people who posted 10 pages ago.

    Only a sparsest few with sufficient rank actually produce anything resembling ideas or analysis. The rest are perhaps necessary, but they’re just the road workers maintaining what’s already been done. In any case, they really aren’t what academics should be. They should be the file clerks and researchers who work for the academics.

    Academic historians have long been losing relevance.
    They’ve distanced themselves from the really important task: turning past events into a meaningful narrative and interpreting it.
    “What exactly happened and how sure can we be about it?” Is hopelessly petty next to:
    “Why did it happen and what does it tell us? What are the patterns?”

    Thucydides or Gibbon would quickly lose patience with a modern history program. They think far too analytically, have far too many real opinions and ideas.

    Now, I like to read older historians like Durant because they weren’t fettered by political correctness and they were focused on writing an entertaining and illuminating narrative that had a point.

    I had a lot of fun with Shirer’s Third Reich because he has a real personality as a writer. He repeatedly and unabashedly refers to Goering as ‘fat’ and makes meaningful speculations about how the Third Reich can be seen as a logical outcome of centuries old trends in German culture.
    Whether or we not we agree with Shirer’s interpretations, it counts for everything that he’s trying to make sense of it all.

    Aurini, I agree with you. This is a time for autodidacts.

    What made studying history at school worthwhile for me was the fact I’d always been studying it and analyzing it on my own.
    If I’d not already been accustomed to thinking for myself, those years would have been a total waste.