COGNITION ADDENDUM II: THINKING OUTSIDE THE HISTORIAN'S BOX
Several comments made by readers during the Cognition series here at Zenpundit
and by email deserve their own examination as they related directly to the historian's perspective:
From Larry Dunbar
:"I see, vertical thought fills in the blank areas of the horizontal line that flows from the thinker. These blank areas contain the visions that the horizontal thinker “sees”. Once the areas are filled in, the vision or pathway is complete. Then we the vertical thinkers may walk the path of the horizontal thinkers. This would be kind of like an Autolisp program written for AutoCAD. The program would ask you the size, shape, and square distance of path, and the AutoCAD application would define and draw it for you. The application would be the vertical thinkers, and you, using the graphical interface of the computer, would be the horizontal thinker. The stepping-stones would be implicit laws that move the trail west"
Larry's comment which I have appended to Part III. in the footnotes for directly inspiring the " spatial" metaphor, point to a blind spot of most political historians which is to think of history primarily in terms of time rather also than space or place.
Why this is most likely would be the dominance of verbal rather than nonverbal intelligence in my profession. Many IQ tests like the Schlossen and the old SAT break down testing for aptitude into those two very broad categories. A " split" in scores is not unusual and people who are mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, architects etc. typically have higher ability in nonverbal thinking and are often better at spatial reasoning than verbally dominant thinkers of a comparable IQ score. They would be more likely to look at the data from a different angle than simple temporal sequence.
One prominent exception would be Frederick Jackson Turner's
famous " Frontier Thesis
" which still is raised today, more than a century later, in graduate seminars to challenge students to reconceptualize their thinking. Another exception would be the theorists of Geopolitics
, Sir Halford Mackinder
and General Karl Haushofer
, a field that is out of fashion with modern historians consumed with questions of race, gender and other postmodernist fads. Going back even further, to the dawn of the Enlightenment, Montesquieu
hypothesized in his The Spirit of the Laws
that national character and political economy were deeply influenced by the forces of climate and geography
, an early attempt at scientific reasoning in history.
From Stuart Berman
and Pundita:"How would you rate Velikovsky?"
This question revealed the narrow horizon of my own educated incapacity since, despite being well read in my field and having communicated with professional historians for years, I had never come across Immanuel Velikovsky's
name even once. So, I looked him up both pro
Not having ever read one of his books, I'm poorly placed to evaluate Velikovsky but I understand why historians shunned his works in the era he was writing. Until very, very, recently, the historical profession gave about as much credence to oral traditions as the U.S. Supreme Court gives to hearsay evidence. Secondly, in the 1950's, the study of myths, legends, folklore were the stuff suitable for the English Department or perhaps the anthropologists but not historians, most of whom back then received their methodological grounding in the 1920's and 1930's. In that very traditional mindset, Velikovsky would never have even been considered relevant to their field.
Today however, if you scan the titles of papers at the more au courant history conferences, Velikovsky might even look quaint.