11.0324 ideal of scholarship (sub specie aeternitatis)

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 7 Oct 1997 20:42:09 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 324.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Mon, 06 Oct 1997 19:57:37 -0700
From: Patricia Galloway <PatGalloway@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: Re: 11.0297 impermanence (sub specie aeternitatis)

Actually, re Ted Parkinson's post, I thought we were in fact talking
about an ideal of scholarship, which Norm Holland was suggesting had
sadly gone the way of the dodo. Maybe that's the case now in academe; I
have been employed outside academe for eighteen years, working as a
historian in state government, and I can assure you that the public is in
fact very interested in their money being spent on what for practical
purposes (i.e. lasting a generation or so) is a "permanent" contribution.
Of course we don't imagine we're writing for the ages (heaven forfend:
that would be totalizing, wouldn't it?), but my original point was that I
still think it's worth behaving as though we have that kind of serious
responsibility. I write Native American history, and am not myself Native
American; I hope and expect that eventually my work will be superseded by
the work of Native American scholars. But I--and many historians--am
writing things today that are highly consequential for real people, and
it is because writing is and can be such an act of power that IMHO we
should do it responsibly. I have real living people to answer to, and
that keeps me honest: sub specie aeternitatis I take as meaning not "for
the ages" but "for people whose lives may be changed by your actions" or
"for (substitute any god you may worship)".

Pat Galloway
MS Dept. of Archives and History

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