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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Historians   Thu 14 Nov 2013, 19:40

Much as I dislike being lumped into a category, would you say that Historians are Optimists or Pessimists? Or is my topic too simple for making remark?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Thu 14 Nov 2013, 20:02

I cannot believe that there is anything innately pessimistic or optimistic about studying history. The analysis of different events can well prompt both reactions, I am sure. Is there some aspect to being a historian that you are particularly thinking of which might have prompted the question?
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Fri 15 Nov 2013, 11:30

I suppose the 'history repeating itself' scenario as we delve into the past, could well make us pessimistic. Then again, when one considers the suffering strife and courage that becomes apparent in our unfurling knowledge of the past, present day trials to loud whinging do not lead to confidence of a brighter future

There again the quality of creativeness found in ancient and later artifacts set against rubbishy stuff  shoved forward for praise, again leads to glum reflection.
Yet I am an optimistic person by nature so I have a sort of conflict within that I need to get sorted.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Fri 15 Nov 2013, 11:49

But not even "history repeats itself" is necessarily pessimistic. Good things appear to come round in cycles too as the plethora of "golden ages" throughout history testifies.

I'm inclined more to the view that history is worth studying regardless of whether one concentrates on the good or bad stuff. And anyway, even if one starts out with a pessimistic or an optimistic view then one is bound to discover evidence to the contrary at every turn, at least if one's doing the job properly. It's immaterial to a good historian in the long run, just as a pessimistic or optimistic surgeon who is also good at their job will achieve the same results. The patient dying or surviving might serve to reinforce either surgeon's prejudicial outlook but otherwise the outcome is the same.

As with surgeons, I'm more wary of incompetent historians than gloomy or overly happy ones.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Fri 15 Nov 2013, 20:22

The 'plethora of golden ages' you mention above might make a good subject for a poll. We may have differing opinions - just a notion.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Tue 10 Dec 2013, 09:39

Priscilla, I'm not trying to hijack your thread but I wasn't sure where else to post.  Susanna Liscombe has just been on breakfast TV promoting some programmes about the hidden dangers in  Victorian and Edwardian times.  I was a sucker for the Alan Hart-Davies "What the Victorians did for us" and another team's "The Victorian Farm" [do all the 'proper' historians jump on me figuratively from a great height now???].  I might watch the programmes Ms Liscombe is promoting.  She's an attractive lass so do I really start hating her because she has  brains and beauty? (Not really I'm not that vindictive).
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Tue 10 Dec 2013, 12:20

I've a lot of time for Adam Hart-Davis - he concentrates on innovation and the technical side of history but manages to illustrate quite successfully their importance and relevance to our modern lives. It is actually refreshing to hear a historical dissertation that doesn't have to wander into speculation and sometimes very dubious theorising to make its point. It's hard to be revisionist about things, just people.
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Sat 29 Apr 2017, 18:42

A recent radio program which offered a philosophical analysis of current political and social trends in Western society generally and in France in particular prompted me to read some of the work of the early twentieth century philosopher Georges Palante whom I hadn’t heard of before. As a thinker Palante was both an individualist and an existentialist. In other words he valued the rights of the individual above all else but also appreciated that every individual is profoundly influenced by their own life experiences and those around them. Palante sought to find a place for individualism in society without going down the nihilistic cul-de-sac of anarchism or the similarly bleak dead-end of irresponsible libertarianism.

What’s interesting about Palante is that he wrote extensively of the subject of pessimism. In his 1909 essay La Sensibilité individualiste, he claims that theological pessimism (e.g. the concept of original sin) and anarchist optimism (e.g. the union of egoists) are really just the flip sides of the same coin. Neither really allows for judgement based on personal experience. Palante suggests that individualism, combined with existential experience, does allow for this and in philosophical terms is, therefore, stronger than either. He himself, however, tends towards pessimism in outlook and so ends up as a pessimistic individualist. Despite (or because of) his avowed social atheism he essentially ends up siding with the theological pessimists rather than the anarchist optimists in the final analysis. He sees the optimism of anarchists as naive and the refusal of anarchists to make or see the link between society and the state as ironic because (as he seems to suggest somewhat presciently) the logical conclusion of anarchism is actually a totalitarian state and thus no different to theological totalitarianism. He certainly reserves some of his most forceful attacks for anarchism:

L'anarchisme est un idéalisme exaspéré et fou ... Les différences qui viennent d'être indiquées du point de vue théorique entre l'anarchisme et l'individualisme en entraînant d'autres sur le domaine de la pratique ... La tactique de l'individualiste contre la société sera infiniment plus complexe, plus délicate, plus riche, plus nuancée et plus variée que celle, grossière et brutale, de l'anarchisme.

One gets the impression that he’s tired of being taken for, or being accused of being, an anarchist and thus feels the need to clearly state the difference between anarchism and individualism.
    
In his 1914 book Pessimisme et Individualisme, Palante even has a chapter headed ‘historical pessimism’ – le Pessimisme historique. This pricked my interest and had me wracking my brains trying to recall where I’d heard this before until I remembered this thread. But that chapter turns out to be a rather narrow discourse comparing and contrasting the world views of Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur de Gobineau and is somewhat disappointing for that.

Georges Palante probably works best as a philosophical historiographer rather than as a stand out philosopher in his own right. He reviews, criticises and applauds the work and ideas of other philosophers as much (or even more so) than he pronounces for himself. Although he was writing over 100 years ago, I suspect that if he were alive today he would very much understand and appreciate and maybe even relish the Res Historica messageboard v Facebook page debate recently on this forum.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Sat 29 Apr 2017, 22:11

Vizzer,

to be honest never heard about the guy. But weel about Vacher de la Pouge, Gobineau, Nietzsche and all the others...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Palante

I did some research for I don't know anymore what board, about the core ideas of Liberalism.
Reading from your mentioning of Palante, I see in my opinion, as many times, the golden midway as the best for society. Individualistic personal freedom is a splendid idea, while it is the fulfilment of the men's best aspirations in my opinion. But as the Liberal thinkers however say, individualism in a society has to exist with its regulations agreed upon by the assembly of the individuals, while personal freedom never has to muzzle the personal freedom of all the others within your society. Therefore one has to seek both as individual and as society for a clever and fair balance between the two.
Last week a, I suppose Liberal, deputee of our government said it again, here in Belgium we can be proud of our way of life, our so-called Western values, it is the best achieved till now in history (in the context of the other ways of life, as the nowadays Turkish for instance, it seems that Wikipedia is now bannished in Turkey recently...). But it can be that she was a bit political biased too Wink ...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Historians   Sat 29 Apr 2017, 22:30

About the Liberal woman that I just mentioned...
http://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20170422_02846042
Gwenolyn Rutten: Our way of life is superior to all the others.
How Muslim regulations endager the freedom of those thinking an other way...
"nowadays whe should have to reckon in our society with the singularities and sensitivities of the most conservative Muslims?"

Kind regards, Paul.
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