Quote of the Day


“We should abandon the notion of history as a court eternally in session.” – Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, in response to the question whether the Catholic church should posthumously apologize to Darwin, as a senior British prelate has suggested the Church of England might do.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Quote of the Day

  1. Peregrinus

    . . . the question whether the Catholic church should posthumously apologize to Darwin . . .

    Apologise for what?

  2. Tony

    I must admit that I’m more interested in the quote.

    Surely history is a critcal examination of the past?

  3. Schütz

    Yes, the quote is of interest to me. I don’t know about history being “a critical examination of the past”. I conceive of the historians job as more of a story teller than a judges or jury.

  4. Tony

    Sounds a bit lame David: ‘Once upon a time there was a man called Adolf …’ 😉

    To me just choosing a legal metaphor sounds defensive.

  5. Louise

    Your example is lame, Tony. An historian only needs to record the actions of Hitler as accurately as possible and the man’s evil will be at once seen by all right-thinking people.

  6. Peregrinus

    What’s the point of telling the story, David, if we’re not going to make judgments, draw conclusions, etc? History is our own story; we examine it because we hope to understand ourselves, to learn about ourselves and to improve ourselves.

    I think Archbishop Ravasi’s point is that we examine the history of (in this instance) the encounter between Darwin and the church, not for the purpose of finding which (if either) of them was at fault and exacting some kind of (in this case, symbolic) restitution, but for the purpose of learning, and of bringing what we learn to bear in our own lives, and in our own times.

    Darwin is actually a useful example, because the Catholic church had previously faced an analogous situation with Galileo, had handled it very badly and had learned from that experience, with the result that the handled Darwin and his ideas differently, and did nothing which, even now, would be seen to be a matter requiring apology. But you don’t learn those kinds of lessons unless you’re open to reflecting on history.

  7. Schütz

    “We examine history…for the purpose of learning, and of bringing what we learn to bear in our own lives, and in our own times.”

    Well, I would say that is exactly why we tell stories too, ol’ boy.

    You need to catch up on the more recent approaches to the historical endeavour–which is very much in terms of “narrative”. Of course, the way in which the “narrative” is told is the important thing in terms of what we learn from the story.

  8. bzkwvgwy

    Peregrinus: We examine history…for the purpose of learning, and of bringing what we learn to bear in our own lives, and in our own times.

    Schutz: Well, I would say that is exactly why we tell stories too, ol’ boy.

    Well, how is that not a critical process?