History and the Brain:
The Memory Problem

Working Notes for a Joint Paper?
Elliott Shore and Paul Grobstein
October 26, 2004

The problem(s)

The challenge(s): What is "history"? How should it be done? What is it for?

A new(?) perspective on history

  • ... Geertz
  • .... Collingwood and Oakshott ... "It is perhaps Oakshott's rejection of the idea that history deals with causes which most collides with received opinion. Causes ... invoke laws and thus assimilate history to science ... as ... Karl Popper [was] explicitly doing. Oakeshott, by contrast, presents historical understanding as event-making; survivals treated as evidence are assembled together so that by "touching" each other they become intelligible, a process he compared to building a dry wall". "conditional platforms of understanding" ... "no explanation could avoid being itself an invitation to further inquiry" ... "a concern with freedom was the centre of Oakshott's political philosophy" ... "each man guides himself by his own imagination"
  • Interesting issue: "distinguished the human world as one of agents responding to their situation as they understood it with such intelligence as they could muster" ... How much of "history" has this character? as opposed to absence of "reflection"?
  • story telling as a mechanism of exploration/change ... true of history as well?
  • depends not only on work of profound skeptics but work of "believers" as well Long Term Memory, E. Pritchard

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