4.0916 Further Looks at Multiculturalism (1/35)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 20 Jan 91 17:19:03 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0916. Sunday, 20 Jan 1991.

Date: 17 Jan 91 16:44:06 EST
Subject: 4.0902 More on Multiculturalism

Bernal on Muhly (with avowal of interest: Prof. Muhly is my own next door
office neighbor): `the predominant causal flow is from society to

I have no quarrel with that, and to me the most valuable part of
Bernal's book is his potted history of 18th/19th century scholarship,
showing, however tendentiously, how we put Greek and Latin in one pot
and then shoved Egyptian and Hittite and Hebrew and Persian and Other
into other pots. Specialists who have looked at that section tell me I
am too fond of it, that it shares the unscholarly qualities that mark
the more traditional exposition of ancient events and trends; but
knowing *how* we constructed the past is necessarily part of trying to
know the past. No question.

My question back to Prof. Bernal would be *should* the predominant
causal flow go from society to scholarship? Or should we as scholars be
struggling and resisting, and squirming and looking for ways to reverse
the flow, if only partially and temporarily and fleetingly? I think we
should and must: it is in such fleeting moments of insight that I find
scholarly work to have its greatest value.

On that principle, I continue to find Prof. Bernal's work to be flawed
*in principle*, for starting with an avowed `social' stance and a
hypothesis and proceeding in what I regard as non-scholarly ways to
enact the hypothesis that supports the scholarly stance. The
`predominant causal flow' is strong enough without we have to help it
along. I am myself a DWEM-in-training, as smug and secure as they get:
my view is that my best antidote to that condition is *not* simply to
shuck DWEM ideology and buy a new ideology at the ideology store, but to
work long and hard to de-ideologize myself and my way of working, at
least a little. (Inter alia, I don't think the Great Pumpkin would ever
visit my pumpkin patch if I went out and bought myself a new ideology;
but I think that if I struggle and sweat and mostly fail and occasionally
succeed for five minutes -- well, at least *Linus* will come and keep me
company. )