Harvard is after Henry, and that's not new,
"I'll see you later" cried the crippled soul
one destination behind.
Soul upon soul, in the high Andes, blue
but blind for turns. And this is where the mind
stops. Death is a box.
- John Berryman
For St. Augustines pure liar it is, on the contrary, a reason in favor of making it. For the bullshitter it is in itself neither a reason in favor nor a reason against. Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person's normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost. Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.
One who is concerned to report or to conceal the facts assumes that there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable. His interest in telling the truth or in lying presupposes that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right, and that it is at least occasionally possible to tell the difference. Someone who ceases to believe in the possibility of identifying certain statements as true and others as false can have only two alternatives. The first is to desist both from efforts to tell the truth and from efforts to deceive. This would mean refraining from making any assertion whatever about the facts. The second alternative is to continue making assertions that purport to describe the way things are but that cannot be anything except bullshit.
- Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit
Today, friends and foes of globalization debate 'its' effects. Both assume the reality of such a process, which can either be praised or lamented, encouraged or combated. Are we asking the best questions about issues of contemporary importance when we debate globalization? Instead of assuming the centrality of a powerful juggernaut, might we do better to define more precisely what it is we are debating, to assess the resources which institutions in different locations within patterns of interaction possess, to look towards traditions of transcontinental mobilization with considerable time-depth?
Globalization is clearly a significant 'native's category' for anyone studying contemporary politics. Anyone wishing to know why particular ideological and discursive patterns appear in today's conjuncture needs to examine how it is used. But is it also a useful analytical category? My argument here is that it is not. Scholars who use it analytically risk being trapped in the very discursive structures they wish to analyze. Most important in the term's current popularity in academic circles is how much it reveals about the poverty of contemporary social science faced with processes that are large-scale, but not universal, and with the fact of crucial linkages that cut across state borders and lines of cultural difference but which nonetheless are based on specific mechanisms within certain boundaries. That global should be contrasted with local, even if the point is to analyze their mutual constitution, only underscores the inadequacy of current analytical tools to analyze anything in between.
- Frederick Cooper, "What is the Concept of Globalization Good For? An African Historian's Perspective," African Affairs 100 (2001), 189-213.
And what thoughts or memories, would you guess, were passing through my mind on this extraordinary occasion? Was I thinking of the Sibyl's prophecy, of the omen of the wolf-cub, of Pollio's advice, or of Briseis' dream? Of my grandfather and liberty? Of my father and liberty? Of my three Imperial predecessors, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, their lives and deaths? Of the great danger I was still in from the conspirators, and from the Senate, and from the Guards battalions at the Camp? Of Messalina and our unborn child? Of my grandmother Livia and my promise to deify her if ever I became Emperor? Of Postumus and Germanicus? Of Agrippina and Nero? Of Camilla? No, you would never guess what was passing through my mind. But I shall be frank and tell you what it was, though the confession is a shameful one. I was thinking, So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now. Public recitals to large audiences. And good books too, thirty-five years' hard work in them. It won't be unfair. Pollio used to get attentive audiences by giving expensive dinners. He was a very sound historian, and the last of Romans. My History of Carthage is full of amusing anecdotes. I'm sure they'll enjoy it.
That was what I was thinking. I was thinking too, what opportunities I should have, as Emperor, for consulting the secret archives and finding out just what happened on this occasion or on that. How many twisted stories still remained to be straightened out. What a miraculous fate for a historian! And as you will have seen, I took full advantage of my opportunities. Even the mature historian's privilege of setting forth conversations of which he knows only the gist is one that I have availed myself of hardly at all.
- Robert Graves, I, Claudius
Unattractive in his political life, Maximilian was equally unattractive in his personal characteristics. Fate had unkindly bestowed upon him a singularly unimpressive presence; he was lanky, lean and small with mouse-colored hair and a pasty complexion, his speech and features much affected by adenoids. His manners were polished and his conversation blunt and well-informed, but the shrill pitch of his voice startled those who were not prepared for it. In honor of his wife, a princess of Lorraine, he affected the French fashion, whose elegant elaborations can hardly have concealed the shortcomings of nature.
Abler and more politically effective than John George, Maximilian had not that dogged honesty which was the saving grace of the Elector of Saxony. Cautious to a fault, he would never commit himself and thereby raised delusive hopes in all who courted him. Like John George he was sincere in striving for the common good of Germany, but unlike John George he had a clear sense of policy and an accurate judgment. His excuse was the less when, like John George, he allowed his individual advantages to take precedence. In this respect both the Elector of Saxony and the Duke of Bavaria failed their country, but Maximilian always with the more shameless egoism. Never was man more anxious that others should sacrifice their gains for the general good; never did man stand more jealously, more fatally by his own.
- C. V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (1938)
You are in a classroom listening to someone self-important, dignified, and ponderous (but dull), wearing a tweed jacket (white shirt, polka-dot tie), pontificating for two hours on the theories of history. You are too paralyzed by boredom to understand what on earth he is talking about, but you hear the names of big guns: Hegel, Fichte, Marx, Proudhon, Plato, Herodotus, Ibn Khaldoun, Toynbee, Spengler, Michelet, Carr, Bloch, Fukuyama, Schmukuyama, Trukuyama. He seems deep and knowledgeable, making sure that no attention lapse will make you forget that his approach is "post-Marxist," "postdialectical," or post-something, whatever that means. Then you realize that a large part of what he is saying reposes on a simple optical illusion! But this will not make a difference: he is so invested in it that if you questioned his method he would react by throwing even more names at you.
It is so easy to avoid looking at the cemetery while concocting historical theories. But this is not just a problem with history. It is a problem with the way we construct samples and gather evidence in every domain. We shall call this distortion a bias, i.e., the difference between what you see and what is there. By bias I mean a systematic error consistently showing a more positive, or negative, effect from the phenomenon, like a scale that unfailingly shows you a few pounds heavier or lighter than your true weight, or a video camera that adds a few sizes to your waistline. This bias has been rediscovered here and there throughout the past century across disciplines, often to be rapidly forgotten (like Cicero's insight). As drowned worshippers do not write histories of their experiences (it is better to be alive for that), so it is with the losers in history, whether people or ideas. Remarkably, historians and other scholars in the humanities who need to understand silent evidence the most do not seem to have a name for it (and I looked hard). As for journalists, fuhgedaboudit! They are industrial producers of the distortion.
- Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan (2008)
I met with the Jesuits [who are already known to you]; they are quite industrious and ready to perform whatever is required of them to the best of their ability. One of them seems to me very efficient. As far as I know [the one who?] meant something to you died recently; news from China always came to them making a large circle around Europe; not knowing why they were summoned here, they do not have any letters concerning China with them, nor do they have any names to whom they might write, and therefore they wish to be released to Polotsk, where they can examine their papers at their leisure.
There does not seem to be any inconvenience, to my knowledge, of releasing them to Polotsk, provided we determine in advance how we are to use them.
If they are to travel to Kiakhta, then they can, after gathering their papers, go there from Polotsk. In which case, Petr Bogdanovich Passek should be ordered to recommend them himself to the acting Governor-General in Irkutsk, or even better, to give them an order from his own office in Irkutsk so they can go straight from Polotsk to [Pil'?].
This I believe [should be done] in case it turns out to be absolutely necessary to send them to Kiakhta, from which they would be able to respond with friendly letters to their colleagues in Peking ...
... 1st. They should talk at length about the patronage their order benefits from in Russia due to the magnanimity of Her Imperial Majesty, making a greeting here to the Chinese [Jesuits], that for all the persecutions [their order has suffered] in other places in Europe, they at least have the solace of living in serenity and flourishing in the two greatest empires, i.e. the Russian and Chinese, that this patronage gives their order a means of pursuing and seeking pleasure and solace in their love for the sciences.
... They might add in this letter of theirs something about their Order, of its present condition, and also something of the sciences, whatever they themselves find appropriate, and it does not seem ill-advised to expand this portion, so that the matter concerning the English would not appear to be the principal subject of the letter, but contrariwise would appear to mention it in passing.
If the Chinese Jesuits send a response to this letter of [the Polotsk Jesuits], and in it put forth the possibility of their colleagues' traveling to Peking, the latter should be given orders in writing that their residence in Peking should have as its principal object creating obstacles to the arrival of an English embassy.
In such a case, that is, if our Jesuits are allowed the opportunity to travel to Peking, they should be dispatched from Kiakhta with various presents, including furs of various kinds, items of fashionable clothing, and rarities, as well as astronomical instruments...
- A. R. Vorontsov to A. A. Bezborodko, June 3, 17[80s-early -'90s?]