Abstract

This contribution to part 4 of the Common Knowledge symposium “Fuzzy Studies: On the Consequence of Blur” shows how the reputedly radical position that history is not about eternal truths but about the creative construction of a convincing narrative of past events is not an argument of recent vintage. In the days when postmodernism was a technical term used mainly by scholars of art and architecture—and indeed, decades before then—professional historians were grappling with the incapacity of facts to write themselves into a universally satisfying, single version of history. Successive presidents of the American Historical Association such as Andrew Dickson White, Carl Becker, Charles Beard, and William McNeill admitted that writing history is a desperate attempt at pattern recognition in a fuzzy discipline. Pattern recognition is a tool, valuable as a stage in historical thinking, but destined ultimately to come undone. What remains, then, is fuzzy thinking. It can be a good thing, the article concludes, to let our thinking about history remain a blur or, at least, to bear in mind that any patterns we recognize in the past are liable to dissolve under a different light.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4578
Print ISSN
0961-754X
Pages
pp. 40-50
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-03
Open Access
No
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