Monday, December 22, 2008

Grinding axes ...

... vs. telling what happened: When Worlds Collide.

Counterfactual speculations of the kind that Lewis is trading in are in any case airy and insubstantial because we lack the knowledge required to evaluate them.
I suspect Jeff Sypeck would also take issue with Lewis.

2 comments:

  1. Goodness knows I engage in a bit of "counterfactual speculation" in my own book, but that review hints, I think, at one of the unfortunate realities of pop-history: that these books are much easier to market when they include a provocative thesis that can be used as a bludgeon by one side or the other in the culture wars. I won't claim to be unbiased, of course, but I will claim not to have an agenda. I just want to tell a good story that reminds readers that iconic historical figures were fallible and imprescient human beings, a realization that hopefully will make those readers think more carefully before they enlist historical figures in modern political debates.

    Hmm--perhaps I have an agenda after all.

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  2. No, I don't think you have an agenda, Jeff. What you say is what I think historians are supposed to do: Tell us as best they can what happened in the past. The past, in fact, is not a gloss on the present, tendentious types like Lewis notwithstanding.

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