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The People's History Of America?

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Okay, this post may sound hostile, but please read it with understanding that it is simply meant to be frank and straightforward (with an underlying premise of benevolent intentions), and that no hostility was intentionally aimed for.

I really don't think my age has any thing to do with how well I can analyze history. Thats like saying becase Kant is older and more famous than me, I don't know anything about philosophy.
You don't. What you "know" is actually knowledge from those older than you, which you adopt as your own. Not only that, but your experience about the world is miniscule and far inadequate to make such broad and sweeping generalizations as you have been in this thread. So Kant is much better in philosophy than you are. Put you and him in the same room and he will completely obliterate all your arguments and lead you to suicide.

All you did was read about his errors from Ayn Rand, but that doesn't qualify you for an expert in philosophy, nor does it disqualify him into being a newbie and a newcomer. He was very wrong, but he knew a lot. You are right (by trusting Ayn Rand's judgment), but you know a tiny bit compared to him.

When you say that you have a more correct philosophy than Kant, what you really ought to say is that you were taught a more correct philosophy by one adult, so that you would be less harmed by philosophy of another adult.

The issue of age becomes less important after college. College is sort of a borderline; those who hadn't finished undergraduate education may generally be said to still need to learn a lot about the world to make right choices. Those who have may generally be said to be competent to make those choices (though they can still learn a great lot from those older than them).

I critisize Objectivist as well as modern historians. History in itself lacks a key systematic objective process that is necessary to understanding the past.
No. Modern history lacks a systematic objective process, not history as such. I have no problems with the study of history, because I read and learn from true historical experts, which means the ancients and their 18th/19th century counterparts. I only read modern historians for dry technical matters, such as a detailed description of a Roman legion. But then I rarely use that sort of information anyway, so it's more of a curious novelty rather than a genuine piece of history's lessons.

The absence of philosophy, even in Objectivist historians, frustrates me.
Again I ask, whom are you referring to?

Peikoff says that evil which is evil some of the time is still evil, but Oist historians praise one set of mystics destroying another.
Who?
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Megan,

I still don't know what Objectivist historians or works you are thinking of. I've really only been exposed to a couple of Objectivist works on history, but all have been quite well done, with plenty of philosophy. The Ominous Parallels is quite philosophical of course, and must be a model for identifying the influence of philosophy on history. I also took a course by Eric Daniels, a history professor, at a Summer Objectivist Conference, on American History, and found it the most clarifying, interesting, and philosophical discussion of Early America I've ever encountered. When you say "Objectivist historians" are you thinking of teenagers and random amateurs found on online forums who randomly cite various historical facts? Or are you saying that you've closely observed the serious Objectivist scholars who have devoted years studying both Objectivism, philosophy, and history, and found them lacking?

As for the rest of the multitudes of words Free Capitalist unleashed in your general direction, I find many of them quite wrong, or at least silly. He's either accusing you of being a total rationalist parroting the words of others, or he's completely rejecting the Objectivist view of knowledge, or both. And I doubt Kant could have expressed himself clearly enough to you to convince you to commit suicide, an assertion that also implies that your current philosophical values are totally unintegrated floating abstractions.

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Godless Capitalist, I still don't understand you. I didn't say the conquistadors brought health and prosperity to the Incas (though it is a fact that this was an unintended but important eventual consequence). I merely said, to whoever it was that killed the last Inca shaman, "Thank you." Even if it was am unscrupulous and brutally violent Spaniard who was motivated by base aims and dirty conscience.

If all the Spaniards had done was to overthrow the existing empires and kill the shamans, I would agree with you. But they mistreated native people in general; did the natives all somehow deserve to be murdered/raped/enslaved, even tiny children?

This whole argument is silly, like debating whether Stalin was worse than Hitler.

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As for the rest of the multitudes of words Free Capitalist unleashed in your general direction, I find many of them quite wrong, or at least silly. He's either accusing you of being a total rationalist parroting the words of others, or he's completely rejecting the Objectivist view of knowledge, or both.

Where in the world did this come from? I would advise you to re-read what Free Capitalist said, as well as at least giving him the courtesy to quote what you disagree with and state the reasons why.

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:yarr:

did the natives all somehow deserve to be murdered/raped/enslaved
Of course not. This argument of ours arose from the implication in your earlier posts that this invasion of South America is somewhat of a dark period in the history of the West. I say, while it's nothing to be proud of, it's nothing to be ashamed of either. That's the whole point. Hitler vs Stalin is similar, but not entirely the same argument.

A West,

Well I got a little carried away with Kant and his powers of persuasion; I actually don't know how good of a debater he was. But I find it presumptious of Megan to read Ayn Rand's words and then walk around saying she can prove Kant wrong, in the same sort of breath as dismissing "Objectivist historians", and generally making claims that only professionals and experts are apt to make.

Nor am I implying that Megan knows nothing, which is obviously far from the truth. I am saying that a lot of what she believes in rests on Ayn Rand's authority, and it will take her a long time to verify all of Objectivism empirically through her own experience. There's nothing wrong with this scheme as we all go through something like it growing up, but it also is important to remember that this sort of knowledge is not definitive, nor absolute. My aim here is to get Megan to read more old history books, and also to stop her from making sweeping generalizations without any obvious concrete examples (I don't know of any broad historical works by Objectivists, excepting Ominous Parallels and Bowden's book on Columbus).

If her approach is, "I'm 16 but all experts are wrong and no one knows anything so I'm going to make my own theory", not only will I be dissuaded from participating in serious historical conversations with her (which may or may not be a good thing to her, depending on how upset she is at me for my post B)), but others will too. Megan herself will not take a 10 year old seriously, if that boy will go around claiming she is wrong and such and such group of historians is wrong. She should apply the same standard to herself.

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F.C. I agree that integrating the Objectivist philosophy into one's life and other knowledge takes much more time than most novices suspect. I vaguely recall about 10 years ago ARI philosophers going on something of a anti-Rationalism crusade to make sure student were really grounding their ideas in reality. Maybe that was the start of L.Peikoff's many works on induction.

I think the process of integration is also where many newbies discover that they do not in fact disagree with Objectivism.

My suggestion for people with less than 5 yrs of studying Objectivism - if you think you've found a "flaw" in Objectivism, first look long and hard for where you may be wrong, after that, quietly and politely ask more experienced people how to resolve the apparent contradiction.

I've met plenty of people who "understood all of Objectivism" after a few months study, and then from month 6 through yr 3 told everyone they met about their "solutions" to all the "mistakes" they found in Objectivism, and then past yr 3 they pretty much went to D. Kelley or the Libertarian Party, or Christ, or whatever.

But I don't generally check peoples' age or experience levels before addressing their comments on online forums.

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Free capitalist:

All of our individual innovations rest on the achievement of others, you behave as if I simply read some Rand, thought "that sounds nice" and delcared myself a philosopher. You couldn't be further from the truth. I went around spouting my own philosophy, read Rand, and said "she sound a lot like me." If there exists an objectivist who merely accepts objectivism because it sounds nice, and does not at every turn analyze Rands words independently, that person is as dispicable (if not more) as Oral Roberts.

I'm 18 , a better philosopher than Kant, and creating my own system.

IF I met a 10 year old who knew more about history than me, I would be amazed and would aknowledge him as an intellect. I've studied German for 5 years. My boyfriend's 13 year old little brother speaks better German than I do, and I respect him. Its not that I don't speak German well (I'm nearly fluent), its just that Aiden is a very smart kid. Its too bad you will never respect a young person.

I'd give you a more accurate case of whom I'm speaking when I say Oist historians, but honestly, I'm afraid I'd end up writing a treatsie, so please just check out ARI and search American history. Many of the articles there are

incredibly biased. I don't mean that in a "modern-historian-all-cultures-are-equal" tone, I mean that in a centrisim is fundamentally incorrect to anyone seeking objectivity sense.

Thankyou A. West for pointing out an invalid assumption against my capacity of thought.

Free Capitalist: I really don't care if you don't want to discuss history because of my age. I am not a confusist, I don't believe in filial piety. I do, however, deeply respect those of great intelligence, whether it be a 13 year-old prodegy, or a 50 year old professor. I'm only as arrogant as I am intelligent, and likewise deal with others in this manner. I respect your admiration for enlightenment historians, and will take your advice in studying them. But because you insist on dismissing me because I am an undergraduate (I'm not 16, by the way), I can't respect you as a thinker. Obviously something is off if you judge based on age and not on character.

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:yarr: Of course not. This argument of ours arose from the implication in your earlier posts that this invasion of South America is somewhat of a dark period in the history of the West. I say, while it's nothing to be proud of, it's nothing to be ashamed of either. That's the whole point. Hitler vs Stalin is similar, but not entirely the same argument.

We seem at least to be getting somewhere. Yes, I think it was a dark period. Overthrowing an awful culture only to replace it with something just as bad is something to be ashamed of (assuming it made sense to be ashamed of our ancestor's actions, which it doesn't). 1500s Spain was just as irrational and brutal a culture as the Incas, etc. Ever hear of the Spanish Inquisition? To make my analogy clearer, it's like Nazi Germany invading the USSR. Yes, the USSR was awful but the Nazis were not an improvement and their invasion was not something to be boasting about.

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We seem at least to be getting somewhere. Yes, I think it was a dark period. Overthrowing an awful culture only to replace it with something just as bad is something to be ashamed of (assuming it made sense to be ashamed of our ancestor's actions, which it doesn't). 1500s Spain was just as irrational and brutal a culture as the Incas, etc. Ever hear of the Spanish Inquisition? To make my analogy clearer, it's like Nazi Germany invading the USSR. Yes, the USSR was awful but the Nazis were not an improvement and their invasion was not something to be boasting about.

YES! Thankyou! This is what I've been wanting to say!

By the way Free Capitalist, I'd like to apologize in advance for saying that I don't respect you as a thinker. This was said in anger. I'm sorry.

I usually have to read modern historians because I read mostly American history. Obviously, there are no Enlightenment American historuans.

Finally, my attitude is this.

"I'm 18, this is OK but it could be better. And upon the grave of Aristotle I will do my darndest to make it that way." Tell me sir, do you have a problem with innovation? What if Aristotle never challenged Plato because Plato was older?

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Megan, I did not dismiss you, or what you have to say. I dismissed your particular claims, which in this case was a justified act on my part (though you will disagree most likely), because your claims were incredibly wide, and your experience could not have possibly collected the empirical evidence needed to support them. But you should feel glad that I did this; although I felt like crap afterwards because I hate putting people down, if I (or anyone else) didn't do this to you, the bad effects I described would come to pass, and you'd find yourself in arrogant isolation.

I do judge based on character, primarily. But age is an important aspect of character. Aristotle did challenge Plato, and superbly so, but as a 40-year old man, not at 18. Moreover, maybe because of your anger, but you probably didn't read carefully what I said: I did not say I won't discuss history with you because of your age; what I did say was that if you persisted in making gigantic sweeping claims with impunity, I would have little choice but cease responding to those posts, and so would most likely others who could contribute anything of value.

Now, to a very serious topic: you said that historical centrism is inimical to objectivity, and thus every author with it inherently suffers as a valid source of objective information. This is a huge, huge, huge mistake, one that will bring you tons of unhappiness, especially because of your interest in history, where debate over this is primary to the subject matter involved. The only other famous battlefield for this issue is journalism and reporting, but the abundancy of information guarantees that if we are not satisfied with one source, we can always expect to find others to replace it. History is much poorer in its information, and thus the topic of centrism and objectivity is absolutely essential for two reasons: 1) you can't afford to throw out historical documents unless absolutely necessary 2) while journalism's aim is to report, history's aim is to teach. Thus while the debate over centrism is important to journalism, it is absolutely critical and fundamental to history.

If you expect to find models of detachment and lack of care in old historians, you will be dissappointed. Nearly all of them have a bias and their values are reflected in their works. That's what makes them wonderful - you can count on them to treat the Founding Fathers with reverence, and call the Greeks civilized, and the French barbarians. Thucydides, what moderns consider a paradigm of detached historianship, makes abundantly clear that he despises democracy (of Athenian variety) and that we ought to be extra careful about it as well. Jefferson was so moved by Thucydides that he said he learned more about political science from that one historical book than from all of his abstract studies put together.

But the old historians were not just about values; they also combined this this pursuit of values with a strict pursuit of facts and historical authenticity, whereas modern historians jettison the values and leave history sterile and dead. Just look at the thread about Jefferson for results this can bring to historical figures who are godly, and ought to be treated as such; that thread is a great example of what damage modern history can wreak. So anyway, it is this centrism, these values of old historians, what make their works worthwhile, and guarantee their authors status as true historians. Any dusty antiquarian can scour various accounts of an event and cynically criticize sources for inconsistencies. But anyway, really start a new thread for I'd like to talk about this (if you still would like to know what I have to say).

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GreedyCapitalist:

We seem at least to be getting somewhere. Yes, I think it was a dark period. Overthrowing an awful culture only to replace it with something just as bad is something to be ashamed of (assuming it made sense to be ashamed of our ancestor's actions, which it doesn't). 1500s Spain was just as irrational and brutal a culture as the Incas, etc. Ever hear of the Spanish Inquisition?

GC, I see what you're saying. You're making an interesting point, but one to which I will also have to disagree. To explain why, I'd like to fulfill my earlier promise, and provide some concrete quotes from sources.

Maya 

"Mayan civilization could hardly be considered humanitarian. One of its central priorities was war and one of its chief priorities in war was the capture, torture, and slaughter of enemy soldiers and leaders. As a scholar specializing in the history of the Maya put it, 'the highest goal of these lineage-proud dynasts was to capture the ruler of the rival city-state in battle, to torture and humiliate him (sometimes for years), and then to subject him to decapitation following a ball game which the prisoner was always destined to lose.' While atrocities have occurred around the world, this was a society in which such behavior was not simply accepted, but sytematized and celebrated. Mayan art and writing featured scenes of captured enemies cut open while alive or being tortured and pleading with their captors, their leaders being debased by Mayan leaders, and Mayan warriors wearing coats decorated with the shrunken heads of their victims. Human sacrifice was a feature of Mayan culture, as it was among the Aztecs and Incas. Those sacrificed included not only captured enemies but also adults and children killed to be bured with Mayan leaders, presumably to provide someone to look after their needs in the next world. Nor were enemy victims simply incidental casualties of war. Some military actions were underataken precisely in order to obtain captives to kill in celebration of the accession of a new ruler."

Aztecs

"The ruler's role developed to such god-like dimensions that merely to look him directly in the eye was an offense punishable by death."

"Slavery was not hereditary, but was suficiently widespread that slave traders were among the most prosperous people in the Aztec empire, and there was even a specialized occupation of bathing slaves so that they would be made suitable to be human sacrifices."

"Above all, the Aztec empire was one in which military prowess was emphasized and glorified. For an Aztec warrior, one of the great prizes of war were the captured enemy warriors who were led back to the capital to be sacrificed by having their hearts cut out of their living bodies on a high altar, while Aztec civilians and foreign emissaries watched, as streams of blood poured down the steps of the pyramid from this mass carnage. Rulers and dignitaries from the surrounding peoples were not merely invited but compelled to attend, a decline of the invitation being punishable by death."

"The particular Aztec warrior who had captured an enemy was not only allowed the honor of cutting his heart out, but was also awarded an arm or thigh to take home and cook for a ceremonial meal for his family. The purpose of this was not to provide food, bt to fulfill cultural and religiious purposes, just as the purpose of the public sacrifice was to propitiate the gods and to inure the Aztec people in general to blood and carnage."

"For the conquered peoples, their ordeal began immediately after conquest. When the Aztecs conquered the Mixtecs, their ruler was killed and his family enslaved. [...] Thereafter, tribute in kind and in labor had to be paid to the Aztecs. This tribute sometimes included children to be sacrificed on the altars. Many conqured peoples were reduced to being serfs tied to land controlled by their Aztec overlords. An even worse fate could await conquered areas that later rebelled, which could lead to a wholesale slaughter of the population."

As I keep trying to say, these people do not deserve your sympathy. They were not what you seem to be saying, plain simple folk just as everywhere else in the world, ruled by funny customs and bloody kings. The entire culture of these people seems to have been centered around mindless, meaningless violence and senseless malevolence. Have you've seen the movie Independence Day? When humans capture the alien and want to come to terms, they ask how peace can be achieved with the alien culture; the creature answers, "... Peace? ... No peace ... " They ask what the alien culture wants for them to do. The creature says only: "... DIIIEEEE ..." That's sort of the kind of mentality the South Americans had - mindless, undiluted, savage malevolence, without any sense or meaning. You can't reason with them, prove why their lifestyle is not good, sit around the fireplace with a cup of tea and reflect upon the vicissitudes of human fortune. None of them knew how to write, but all of them knew how to torture their enemies for years, and enjoy doing it. If you are near people like that, either you ought to prepare yourself to be cut open and slowly strangled by your own intestines, to watch how they slowly skin you alive and in the meanwhile extract every single bone out of your increasingly formless body, or to smite their whole culture out of existence without delay or regret.

The Spanish were not this sadistic, nor their metaphysical views this horrific. Theirs was a primarily theocratic government which engaged in excesses of mysticism due to the growing rationality of its populace; the plain rank and file Spanish farmers did not participate, nor enjoy, the bloody activities of the church. The Inqusition was not a wholesale cultural mystical movement akin to the Crusades; it was instead imposed on the populace by a paranoid and isolated group of unscrupulous bishops. Writing was spreading like wildfire at this time in Europe, the great Greek and Latin works were being rediscovered and increasingly worshipped; even Christianity came down to Earth enough to erect the great Gothic cathedrals.

Were the times malevolent? Yes. Was there abundant death and suffering? Yes. Was this death and suffering of the same kind, and for the same reasons, as that practiced by the South Americans? No. Were the two cultures equivalent? I hope you see that the answer must be no.

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The reason why I say centrism is bad is exactly the reason you just described. Centrism is the applying of values to a particular event. Because I think ONE set of objective values exists, I don't believe historians are free to analyze events with a lense of centrism. I think it is fundamentaly threatning to the knowing of any objective, past , truth. I suppose you could say that an objective centrism could be correct, but by the very nature if being objective this is a contradiction in terms. To analyze something Eurocentricly doesn't just mean that you favor the endevors of europeans, it means you veiw events with the values of the Europeans. Mystic self-sacrifice and all.

I think to analyze history correctly means to first define a group of people (or specifically a person) and the philosophy that moves them. Then discover in their actions whether they were philosophically consistant, and how they applied that philosophy. Finally, after establishing objectively what happened via primary sources, judge those actions against objective values and see what they could have done better. Then judge the person/people accordingly.

I'm currently enrolled in an African history class. Thats what made me think this way. When you study a culture like the Africans you begin to see the flaws in centrism (Afro, and Euro). You see flaws in the philosophies of the native africans and in the European colonizers. Cecil J Rhodes did a lot to helpp the Africans economically, but did it, in the words of British African historian Bastil Davidson, by denying them the one thing that ensures human prosperity: freedom. (Beware: generalization ahead) One pattern I see in Oist philosophers is that many forget that Early Americans were not Oist. As seen in the T. Jefferson thread, TJ was a great thinker...but he owned slaves, and he was a racist. As an African-American I still admire him, but at the same time I can't accept him as the greatest American thinker (who is, of course, Benjamin Franklin! :angry: ). I think its important as a historain to study all cultures, not because they are all equally philosophically correct, but because IT ALL HAPPENED, and I'd like to know about it.

One question I've been thinking about today: The chinese are so collectivist, they don't even have words to express individuallism, yet they were one of the worlds most innovative cultures, though they were isolated until marco polo. Is this an instance of the natural state (individualism) prospering even amidst the constraints of collectivism?

And yes, just because Aristotle didn't WRITE down what he thought about Plato when he was young, doesn't mean he didn't challenge him. I'm making this my life's work. It won't be done for a while.

PS: Free Capitalist, please suggest some American historians for me. :)

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To analyze something Eurocentricly doesn't just mean that you favor the endevors of europeans, it means you veiw events with the values of the Europeans. Mystic self-sacrifice and all.
I want to ask you one question in response to this: What is the point of history?

yet they were one of the worlds most innovative cultures,

Are you sure about that? Mind providing some details?

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I want to ask you one question in response to this: What is the point of history?

To known what happened in the past, and why it happened. You can't discover this through centrsim. AS an objectivist, I don't understand how you could believe that using European values historically is better than Objective values. THEY AREN'T THE SAME. God bless America, right? Americans have in their history violated the rights of other people. This is not a uniquely American faliure. We were much better about it than a lot of other cultures, but just aknowledge it. Its true. Why uphold an unreality to force a culture to fit your values. Its like you evade facts to make something fit a virtue. To be honest, I'm a little disillusioned.

Some people make philosophy to organize experiences, and others organize a philosophy to make experiences. I use my philosophy to evaluate everything, I don;t force it to fit because I need a hero. I don't admire America as a whole. I admire the people who held its ideals purely like Benjamin Franklin. I don't think freedom should be granted to one for being a member of a state. Everyone needs it. I'm for a world government that protects everyone's rights. The domination of freedom, not America...and no, they're not synonomous.

You probably think I'm a nut, but thats only because I always feel rushed posting, and hence don't express my ideas correctly. (I've noticed this trend). It does make sense, just not in a post. I'm in the process of writing it all down, and when its done I'll let you read it.

china:

http://www.csupomona.edu/~plin/ls201/confucian5.html

(more on this later, I have to go to class)

This guy has the right idea (but he's just a student, he can't know anything)

http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1314

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Modern history was invented by the West. Ancient Greeks during the Hellenistic period began placing man as the center of all worldly events. Prior to that the Hebrews felt History merely revealed the will of god, and prior to that early civilizations felt they had no power or control over their actions, that they were merely held to the whims of greater incomprehensible powers.

Simply by putting man as the center of worldly events and gauging it in accordance to him you are acting on Western principles which are subjugated by a very strong philosophical foundation stemming from many of Aristotle's and to a lesser extent Plato's teachings. And of course many of Aristotle's teachings coincide with Objectivist values. It is impossible to study history rationally, meaning without mystical contexts or religious myths, without adopting a distinctly Western View. As such man as the center of the world as an entirely volitional being existing in a universe of order is a distinctly Western view, mystical ideology and religious myths are not.

I don’t know what you specifically mean by this statement:

“To analyze something Eurocentricly doesn't just mean that you favor the endevors of europeans, it means you veiw events with the values of the Europeans. Mystic self-sacrifice and all.”

I’m guessing you are referring to cultural pluralism or contextual morality. Which if so, I agree are two of the most idiotic and detrimental schools of thought ever conceived. Both undermine the significance of values and their importance in gaining any knowledge of worth from studying the history and nature of cultures. As I was saying placing man as the center of Historical events is in some ways the practice of a value, that man is the most important factor in this world. To cast aside all values is a contradiction to the very nature of modern History and consequently destroys its relevance to our lives.

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The point I'm making is that western values do not inherently place man as the center. Plato was western too.

I'm saying objective values, which are what you just described, are the only values to be used in examining history.

Remember that the Europeans also fought terrible bloody wars in the name of self sacrifice. Even the Spartans were guilty of self-abducation (for state) and Pericles praises the gods for the glorious gift of democracy in The Funeral Speech. Socrates questioned Euthyphro on the nature of piety, and made his peity known to the men of Athens by delaring "I shall obey the gods rather than you".

Mysticism is nothing to admire, and I won't use a mystic's values to attempt to discover truth. (note: I said a mystic's values, as in values inherent to any mystic, not the values of someone who happens to be a mystic but demonstrates (due to chronic mystic inconsistancy) some rational values.)

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...

I think to analyze history correctly means to first define a group of people (or specifically a person) and the philosophy that moves them. Then discover in their actions whether they were philosophically consistant, and how they applied that philosophy. Finally, after establishing objectively what happened via primary sources, judge those actions against objective values and see what they could have done better. Then judge the person/people accordingly.

...

This in itself IS centrism, for you are prescribing a set of norms by which to study history. This set of norms--this methodology--you prescribe is necessarily based on a given philosophy, and thus on a given set of values. Furthermore you specifically stated "judge those actions against objective values" and also "judge the person/people accordingly", which again implies that historical events/characters should be evaluated according to an objective philosophy--i.e., a given set of values. That is, the study of history should be centric.

Unless, you mean by "centrism" the evaluation of history according to a non-objective philosophy? If so, I would ask why define centrism as such?

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Centrism implies that one is not reality "centered", it means, in essnece that you use values as primary. You make events fit your values. An objective historian APPLIES those values to the events which took place, for she recognizes something OBJECTIVE ie, independent of her values, took place.

This thread is getting old, I think I'll make like Free CApitalist and split.

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