n ot e s
At the time, Carlos was earning a living as the supervisor of several laundromats
and a part-time private eye (or so he claimed). ‘‘Don’t even question it,’’ he used
to say when talking about matters such as spiritual a∆ictions. ‘‘Most of my clients
are far more crazy than you and me put together.’’
On epistemology, language, and ‘‘out-there-ness,’’ cf. Rorty (1991), Rorty (1999,
175–89), Needham (1972), and Das (1998). For particularly lucid statements of
the problems underlying the long-standing tendency of Western social science to
insinuate its own categorial apparatus into life worlds that these very categories
cannot but represent as structured by ‘‘belief ’’ or other forms of ‘‘irrationality,’’
see also Hildred Geertz (1975), MacGa√ey (1981), and Clark (1983).
‘‘An anachronism,’’ Oakeshott (1933, 114) thus argues, ‘‘is not (as is often sup-
posed) a contradiction in a world of past events, it is a contradiction in a present
world of experience: it is something which comes to us as a fact, but which fails to
establish its factual character on account of the incoherence it introduces into our
world of present experience.’’
The inquiring subject’s relation to the past is, thus, certainly mediated by empiri-
cal operations but cannot be reduced to them. More crucially, as Kuhn (1970) has
made unambiguously clear for the—seemingly more transparent—case of the
natural sciences, unless it remains confined to an individual’s private ruminations,
such a relation cannot be but a social one. Following his lead, Shapin and Sha√er
(1985) have provided us with a case in which human nature became contingent on
a leaky air pump operating—and being debated—in the midst of the English Civil
War. Compare Bruno Latour’s (1993, 15–32) comments on their findings.
It is for this reason that even staunchly secular, nonprovidentialist views of his-
tory somehow never quite escape analogies with those classic definitions of reli-
gion that do not feature the belief in personalized divinities as a necessary com-
ponent. Who, e.g., could seriously disagree with a view of historiography as
constituting ‘‘(1) a set of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive,
and long lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of
a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura
of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic’’ (Geertz
1973, 90). Geertz, of course, is not speaking about history here.
Previous Page Next Page