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Historical Truth and Lies about the Past: Reflections on Dewey, Dreyfus, de Man, and Reagan

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Historians have long struggled with the questions of historical relativism, objectivity, and standards of proof and evidence. Intellectual historian Alan Spitzer focuses on the contradiction between theory and practice by presenting case studies of four politically charged debates about the past: the response to the report of the commission chaired by John Dewey that evaluated the accusations made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Purge Trials of 1937, the Dreyfus Affair in turn-of-the-century France, the allegations about the extent and meaning of literary critic Paul de Man's complicity with the German occupation forces in wartime Belgium, and Ronald Reagan's justification for his 1987 visit to a German cemetery where Nazi SS officers are buried.

Spitzer's argument centers on the ways in which the authority of 'objective' criteria for historical judgment are introduced in politicized disputes about the past, regardless of the theoretical qualification or repudiation of such standards. The higher the political stakes, the more likely the antagonists are to appeal to generally warranted standards of relevant evidence and rational inference. Spitzer's commentary speaks to issues that transcend the specific content of the four cases he discusses.

Synopsis:

Historians have long struggled with the questions of historical relativism, objectivity, and standards of proof and evidence. Intellectual historian Alan Spitzer focuses on the contradiction between theory and practice by presenting case studies of four politically charged debates about the past: the response to the report of the commission chaired by John Dewey that evaluated the accusations made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Purge Trials of 1937, the Dreyfus Affair in turn-of-the-century France, the allegations about the extent and meaning of literary critic Paul de Man's complicity with the German occupation forces in wartime Belgium, and Ronald Reagan's justification for his 1987 visit to a German cemetery where Nazi SS officers are buried.

Spitzer's argument centers on the ways in which the authority of 'objective' criteria for historical judgment are introduced in politicized disputes about the past, regardless of the theoretical qualification or repudiation of such standards. The higher the political stakes, the more likely the antagonists are to appeal to generally warranted standards of relevant evidence and rational inference. Spitzer's commentary speaks to issues that transcend the specific content of the four cases he discusses.

Synopsis:

Historians have king struggled with the questions of historical relativism, objectivity, and standards of proof and evidence. Spitzer, an intellectual historian, focuses on the contradiction between theory and practice by presenting case studies of four politically charged debates about the past.

About the Author

Alan B. Spitzer, who specializes in French intellectual history, is professor emeritus of history at the University of Iowa. His books include The French Generation of 1820. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Historical Argument When the Political Chips Are Down

Chapter 1. John Dewey, the "Trial" of Leon Trotsky, and the Search for Historical Truth

Chapter 2. Versions of Truth in the Dreyfus Case

Chapter 3. The Debate over the Wartime Writings of Paul de Man: The Language of Setting the Record Straight

Chapter 4. Ronald Reagan's Bitburg Narrative

Conclusion

Appendix A: Letter from Paul de Man to Harvard Authorities

Appendix B: "The Jews in Contemporary Literature"

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780807845981
Author:
Spitzer, Alan B.
Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
Author:
Spitzer, Alan B.
Location:
Chapel Hill :
Subject:
General
Subject:
History, modern
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
Historiography
Subject:
Truth
Subject:
Objectivity
Subject:
History, Modern -- 20th century -- Case studies.
Subject:
European history; John Dewey; Moscow Purge Trials of 1937; Dreyfus Affair; France; Paul de Man; Belgium; Ronald Reagan; cemetery
Subject:
European History
Subject:
John Dewey
Subject:
Moscow Purge Trials of 1937
Subject:
Dreyfus Affair
Subject:
France
Subject:
Paul de Man
Subject:
Belgium
Subject:
Ronald Reagan
Subject:
cemetery
Subject:
Philosophy : General
Copyright:
Series Volume:
v. 8
Publication Date:
September 1996
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
174
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Historiography
History and Social Science » World History » General
History and Social Science » World History » Historiography
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Travel » General

Historical Truth and Lies about the Past: Reflections on Dewey, Dreyfus, de Man, and Reagan Used Trade Paper
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Product details 174 pages University of North Carolina Press - English 9780807845981 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Historians have long struggled with the questions of historical relativism, objectivity, and standards of proof and evidence. Intellectual historian Alan Spitzer focuses on the contradiction between theory and practice by presenting case studies of four politically charged debates about the past: the response to the report of the commission chaired by John Dewey that evaluated the accusations made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Purge Trials of 1937, the Dreyfus Affair in turn-of-the-century France, the allegations about the extent and meaning of literary critic Paul de Man's complicity with the German occupation forces in wartime Belgium, and Ronald Reagan's justification for his 1987 visit to a German cemetery where Nazi SS officers are buried.

Spitzer's argument centers on the ways in which the authority of 'objective' criteria for historical judgment are introduced in politicized disputes about the past, regardless of the theoretical qualification or repudiation of such standards. The higher the political stakes, the more likely the antagonists are to appeal to generally warranted standards of relevant evidence and rational inference. Spitzer's commentary speaks to issues that transcend the specific content of the four cases he discusses.

"Synopsis" by , Historians have king struggled with the questions of historical relativism, objectivity, and standards of proof and evidence. Spitzer, an intellectual historian, focuses on the contradiction between theory and practice by presenting case studies of four politically charged debates about the past.
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