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Today's random paradox

From the NY Times (which I do not piuck on, but is the one I read most):

A mining company is proceeding with a project that could help revive Brazil’s economy, but it would also destroy caves treasured by scholars of Amazonian prehistoric human history.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
And I just read _Cloud Atlas_, a fine example of modern postmodernism....
Jason Paul
Dec. 17th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
short term gains vs. long term losses...i guess it all depends on the specifics though. i'm oversimplifying perhaps, but that's the first thing that comes to mind. there was an article i read this weekend on Slate (i think it was) about conflicts related to environmentalism movements and issues, instantly reminded me of it.
Dec. 17th, 2012 08:12 am (UTC)
Maybe the article was written by a machine. Hence the specification of 'human'.
Dec. 17th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
ANd robots uninstructed in the human concepts of "prehistory" and "history".
Dec. 17th, 2012 11:33 am (UTC)
Actually I meant their prehistory our history --paradox resolved.
Dec. 17th, 2012 12:20 pm (UTC)
"Prehistoric Robots" would be a teasing title for a SF story -- it would not mean what it seems to mean -- it would be THEIR prehistory as non-conscious chips,servo-motors, sensors, etc., which they love to research. Our prehistory (pre-written documents) would interest them not at all. Nor 99% of our history for that matter.
Dec. 18th, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)
Or 'Who Would Research a Man?'
Dec. 17th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
Re anselmo_b's two posts, there is such a thing as "natural history" in ordinary English (perhaps not so in other European languages) so "human history" is not quite as pleonastic as it seems. Of course, writing "Amazonian prehistoric history" would reveal the excessive compression involved; what was meant is the process of teasing out from objects ("material culture") the probable history of Amazonian peoples who left no documents from which we could interpret a narrative history. ("Probable history" actually is a case of pleonasm; all history is a matter of interpretive probabilities, including the personal history we think we remember directly.)

The perils of overly economical journalistic writing.
Dec. 18th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
Ah, the choice between regret and remorse...
Dec. 23rd, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
This is interesting
People tend to think of the word "history" as referring to a written account of things which happened in the past (or generally something that happened long ago). This isn't wrong because a lot of modern history makes use of archaeology, paleontology (life in the stones ages), anthropology, botany, and other sciences to flesh out ancient life.

But history was originally a field that dealt exclusively with written documentation and therefore only involved societies which left written records. Everything else was prehistory. Hence today you have a number of histories of human prehistory, like Jared Diamond's 'Gun, Germs, and Steel,' which was briefly in this news this year because Mitt Romney lied about reading it.

Anyway, I thought you'd like to know (or maybe you already know? ^^) that someone named Alan Jacobs until recently taught a class called Christianity and Fantasy at Wheaton College. Near the end of the course he would examine what he considered the “re-paganizing of fantasy,” by looking at 'Little, Big' and Philip Pullman’s 'His Dark Materials' trilogy.


I find myself extremely curious as to what those "re-paganizing" lectures contained :)
Dec. 24th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Re: This is interesting
Thanks for this.

I don't know Alan Jacobs either, or exactly what re-paganizing could be -- we all know that both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis managed to Christianize their imagined worlds without ever mentioning Christian theological concepts or characters. Of course you're right about the now largely discarded concept of "prehistory" -- it was exactly what led the writer of this squib into paradox; s/he remembered that "prehistoric" had something to do with pre-literate peoples but also was clear that the caves could reveal their history -- at which juncture thinking stopped.
Rodger Cunningham
Dec. 24th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
Re: This is interesting
Alan Jacobs is also the author of a very good biography of CSL, among other things much more psychologically sensitive than A. N. Wilson's aggressively psychologizing one. He is, to be sure, a conservative, but a rather silly potted description of John Dewey's educational philosophy is the only thing in his book that really annoyed me about that. The book is titled _The Narnian_; interesting that nowadays Lewis's apologetics etc. have been largely overshadowed by his children's books. And a good thing too.

Ronald Hutton has an interesting chapter on Tolkien and paganism in his essay collection _Witches, Druids, and King Arthur_.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )