On History

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Abstractions /
@ K. 1998

History as Stories We Tell

History and myth are distinct at their centers;
their borders are very broad
and very fuzzy.

Notice: the stories we tell about the past are inevitably motivated, at least in part, by political, cultural, theological, cosmological, and epistemological biases.

thanx dimplevjkumar

We’ll be punctilious about one kind of argument or evidence while barring the door against others.

History is a bloodbath.
William James

History is another highly ambiguous word, the ambiguity of which most are mostly unconscious of. History has never been “everything that’s happened.” That multiply is the province of physics, anthropology, the paleo-sciences …

thanx montana

History in the ordinary meaning is what we encourage to be noticed about what happened. All history until recently knows only about kleptocracy. (That is, “what happened” is likely to be misreported: biased, if not a lie.)

History: a kleptocracy whitewashing its own laundry

History, like literacy itself, is an artifact of kleptocracy. Principally, it is a self-justifying artifact. This, my “history” directory [since reconceived of as my “Society” folder], isn’t about that kind of history; it’s my digestion of the paleo-sciences as applied to social theory. It’s my background to phenomena discussed throughout this Society (and its pathologies) section.

In constructing history the way we do we ignore almost all of it.
Denis Wood

2005 08 04 How old is history? As old as “ancient” Egypt? As old as Sumer? To get to ages like that of ancient Jericho one has to leave history and try archeology. What we now “know” of Cro-Magnon man, of Neanderthals, of our mother Eve, of Homo habilis … we didn’t get from historians. Nor did we get it from the Bible.

Science gauges the earth to be around 4.6 billions years old. The universe is estimated to be somewhere upwards of fourteen billion years old.

How old is the cosmos? We have no idea.

Prigogine posits time to be infinite.

thanx polyvore

Could the cosmos be infinite? If so, could it be co-infinite with time?

History is Johnny-Come-Lately: and is about as reliable: though we knew history, and knew the Bible, before we knew any anthropology, much astronomy … Though astronomy is way older than history. Cro-Magnon man tracked the moon.

History is the story of the present taking credit for what it opposed in the past.

“Primitive” man identified things with their attributes. If a sorcerer got a hank of your hair, he could work his magic against you. If a Cabalist could only learn God’s true, secret name, he would establish an efficient interface between God and Man. Other “cabalists” would learn their god’s secret name to control that god — and thereby, the world. Today’s Voodooist will still try to filch your fingernail clippings and make an image with them to stick pins in.

Youth: History takes too long.
Teacher: History is never kind to those who try to hurry it.

The Power of One

“Modern” man follows suit: still confusing the Thing with the Thing Named, the Territory with the Map, the Description with the Thing Described. What better example is there than history? When we refer to it, we are frequently thinking of “what happened.” With similar frequency however, we are thinking of accounts of what happened. How many of us distinguish between them? How regularly?

Notice also: what do we know of “what happened” except through the accounts?

What do we do when accounts differ?

How would we know when accounts agree but are nevertheless “wrong”?

History has a way of rewriting itself.
Angels & Demons

Always keep in mind the characteristic endemic to historians: they are mesmerized by power. They revere dead popes while ignoring living saints, go on and on about this pharaoh and that caesar while some political Van Gogh is anonymously reclaiming Jamaica Bay or assisting nature by planting lobelia in his back yard, thereby modifying the eco-patterns of hummingbirds.

The early history needed to set the record straight is all but unknown.
Denis Wood

Nothing that has a history can be defined.

Neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency.
Jared Diamond

History does not repeat itself. It can’t. It stutters too badly. Truth is, history can’t even remember its lines.


2006 08 30 This is one of the oldest modules in the Society area of my Teaching section. As you may see I’ve added to it more often than I’ve rewoven it. It would be a major project to wholely, worthily renovate it. Today I want to steal time to make sure of one thing: that analogies are seen between the concepts of history and of Korzybski’s map/territory distinction and, similarly between history and Bateson’s Pleroma/Creatura distinction.




Both the Korzybski and the Bateson get extensions:

The “territory” is what’s there; the map is our modeling of what’s there. Similarly, Pleroma is the actual universe; in Sentiens, a subset of Creatura, humans model experience. Sometimes we model it as honestly as we can, other times we edit to suit our convenience, our advantage, our vanity …

The concept “history” struggles with the same problems. We tend to think that history is what happened. We must always remind ourselves that distinction may be possible between what happened and what we say happened. Who kept the records? Why should we trust them? If we kept the records, why should anyone trust us? And if God kept the records, is there any objective reason that God should be trusted?

History has only slowly and reluctantly merged with science. Those who study history with any responsibility now know that early histories are large part propaganda. We must look for independent corroboration or its absence in the Chronicles, the Bible … Do our stories have support from the fossil record? or are they contradicted by it? or does the fossil record have no bearing?

Any answer must be explained, then explained again.

Social Epistemology Abstractions Menu Scholarship

K. put this among Social Epistemology / Abstractions / Then K. added a “history” section to Scholarship. It’s Abstract, but should also have a link in Scholarship / History.

God knows how many errors I introduce as I rush to resurrect censored modules: well, the US shouldn’t have censored my work in the first place. Pardon me: in the second place; in the first place they never published it! saw that I was unemployable, repeatedly cut my feet off, saw me shunned … I was making more than enough errors on my own!

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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