Prof. Steve N. Mason: Truth, Lessons, and Cleopatra’s Nose in History
14-10-2021, 3:00pm ZOOM
Meeting ID: 816 0077 8091
The central question of this talk concerns the prospects for seeking ‘truth' in history, in our present environment. Pursuing that issue entails the related and perennial question of whether history generates—or can or should generate—lessons for later times. History is frequently acknowledged as a Teacher, whose lessons we neglect at our peril. Strangely enough, discussion of these matters brings us face to face with the size and shape of Queen Cleopatra’s nose, a reference point in such discussions. Underlying these questions is a problem that all historians must face: What does historical knowledge mean, and how (much) can we claim to know?
While surveying the main fault lines that the field has produced in response (history a social science or a humanities discipline, nomothetic vs. Idiographic, nomological vs. Hermeneutical, history as the study of power), I argue in favour of truth as aim and criterion, but against lessons. And the nose? That must await the day.