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Monday, 30 August 2010


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Colin Danby

I've heard people use "historicist" when they mean "relativist," which would fit the context. The Darwinian bit is pure smoke-blowing.


principles that inspired the American founding were always viewed as universal principles

Oh, wow. Not even close. In fact, one of the great virtues of social evolutionism was always the way in which it gave a pseudo-scientific justification to existing prejudices and, more importantly, existing practices which denied certain populations the full benefits of human or citizen rights.

There's no such thing as 'too correct' when you're trying to distinguish between yourself -- an historicist -- and an ahistoricist like Jos. Philips. I should know.


I've heard people use "historicist" when they mean "relativist," which would fit the context.

Wait, wh--head explodes, film rewinds, head reconfigures--at? No, I think the exploding bit worked better.

matt regan

Actually, it it "too correct" for many. It might be however "is (too) correct" for more, or perhaps "is correct, too! ***hole!" for all but the least discriminating.


There's something very odd about that article. It opens with a reasonable question - is America only for white people? - which is elaborated upon with an e-mail from a correspondent, who feels alienated from the founding principles of the United States of America given that said principles apparently did not apply to him for much of the nation's history, what with the slavery and all. Okay, promising start. How do you resolve that?

The author just denies that there's a problem. "Actually, no! The founding principles of America were universal!" Surely any thinking person immediately wants to ask, "but what about slavery?" I mean, it's a pretty obvious counter-example, right? So obvious the author even mentions it?


I've heard people use "historicist" when they mean "relativist," which would fit the context.

Slippery language, but I understand what they mean: historical context is often a component of relativism.

What's funny about that is that in this case their the relativists, lobbying essentially for tolerance for our citizen ancestors on the grounds that they thought they were being as universalist as possible....


What SeanH said: Darwin is responsible for Jefferson's attitude toward slavery? What?

Colin Danby

A few minutes' googling suggests that the root of this is Ronald Pestritto's _Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism_ (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), which uses "historicism" in this way. The influence of "Darwininan" thinking on Wilson gets some mention, but that has probably been amplified since. The book has gotten a lot of play on right-wing blogs.

A core argument is that Wilson (and Theodore Roosevelt) marked a basic rupture in U.S. history, a betrayal of the limited-gov't design of the founders. This gets you two radically-incompatible camps: the illegitimate, elitist rulers, and the sturdy folks seeking to restore the Vision of the Founders.

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