Morality and Racism

Selective quotation

 

From: at
Date: Wed Mar 3, 2004 2:12 pm
Subject: Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Peter Staudenmaier:

Selective quotation is only a bad idea when others do not have access to the original. That is obviously not the case on a public email list. Everybody reading your reply to me has already read the post that you're replying to, and so forth. In these circumstances it makes much more sense to quote the specific portion you'd like to reply to. The rest of us can always go back and check the earlier post for the full argument.

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings. You may respond that you write polemic, not history. If you'd do take that stance, then you are essentially telling all your readers that they cannot actually trust anything the you write, for at any point your examples may not actually support your argument as they may appear to, and the summaries and explanations that you give may intentionally not accurately represent the things are describing at all. Of course, all your sources are theoretically public, and anyone could go out and acquirer four-foot stack of books and spend a month or two checking you (provided, of course, they read German). But certainly you don't expect to a majority of your readers to do this, so essentially you have put us on noticed not trust anything you say. Perhaps you might consider being upfront about this in your articles, and lead off with a disclaimer of some sort.

Daniel Hindes

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Thu Mar 4, 2004 5:37 am
Subject: Re: Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Daniel to Peter:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

Good grief, Daniel, this is an email list. It's "netiquette," simple courtesy, to only quote the part you are replying to and not repeat the entire dialogue every time. That is annoying especially to people on digest and unnecessarily time consuming to read or scroll through huge chunks of (often not re-formatted) text one has already read seven times.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Thu Mar 4, 2004 6:18 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Diana:

Good grief, Daniel, this is an email list. It's "netiquette," simple courtesy, to only quote the part you are replying to and not repeat the entire dialogue every time.

Daniel:

It is "netiquette" to chop up post to distort the original writer's argument and then respond to tangentially to a side point?

A certain amount of chopping is certainly necessary (note what I chopped for this reply). On the other hand, this can be taken too far, especially if it is used as a technique for avoiding discussion on substantive points by appearing to reply but not actually addressing the question or the central argument of the previous post. It is a technique frequently employed by politicians (as the next election cycle approaches, there should be plenty of opportunity to observe true masters practice the art). From my training as a prisoner of war interrogator (US Army) I have a certain amount of experience detecting systematically evasive answers.

It is not a question of whether, it is a question of how and how much.

Daniel Hindes

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Thu Mar 4, 2004 6:33 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Peter Staudenmaier wrote:

Selective quotation is only a bad idea when others do not have access to the original. That is obviously not the case on a public email list. Everybody reading your reply to me has already read the post that you're replying to, and so forth. In these circumstances it makes much more sense to quote the specific portion you'd like to reply to. The rest of us can always go back and check the earlier post for the full argument.

Daniel replied:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings. You may respond that you write polemic, not history. If you'd do take that stance, then you are essentially telling all your readers that they cannot actually trust anything the you write, for at any point your examples may not actually support your argument as they may appear to, and the summaries and explanations that you give may intentionally not accurately represent the things are describing at all. Of course, all your sources are theoretically public, and anyone could go out and acquirer four-foot stack of books and spend a month or two checking you (provided, of course, they read German). But certainly you don't expect to a majority of your readers to do this, so essentially you have put us on noticed not trust anything you say. Perhaps you might consider being upfront about this in your articles, and lead off with a disclaimer of some sort.

To which Peter Staudenmaier first snipped out this portion:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it.

Then Peter said:

No. Altering the original meaning is not what quotation is for. It's not okay to alter the original meaning no matter how much or how little you quote. One of the functions of quotation is to summarize the original meaning. That is, in part, what quotation is for. In this sense, all quotation is necessarily 'selective'. If you think I have altered the meaning of any of the passages I have quoted, please point them out.

Daniel replies:

Ok. So first you agree that the purpose of selective quotation is not to alter the original meaning. On the other hand, you say, "all quotation is necessarily 'selective'.". This means that altering the original meaning is actually inevitable. So if every instance of selective quotation necessarily alters the original meaning, we should be discussing how much the alteration alters the original, and not whether. In my own writing, I try to avoid the charges altogether by erring on the side of length rather than shortness, and quoting in entireity, or at least in whole paragraphs. In some of your attack pieces, you have quoted as short as individual words, which I would argue has something like a 99.9% chance of altering the original meaning significantly, especially in polemical writing. I will take you up on your offer, and try to point out your alterations whenever time permits. I should also point out that I am not the only one capable of determining when a selective quotation alters the meaning of the original, and I have heard dozens of complaints about your quotations from others on this list.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings.

Then Peter further said:

That is foolish. Quite apart from the fact that this is not the technique I employ, we are talking about an email list with a very easily accessible public archive. It is a waste of bandwidth to quote every bit of every post you respond to. The proper procedure is to quote the specific part you're replying to.

Daniel responds:

The reply avoids fact that I was talking about your articles as well as your emails, Peter. In writing about Steiner you also snip out just those parts you are talking about as well. The accusation I am making is that your method in doing this distorts the original to a degree that is more than normal discourse would allow. I have duly noted your denial that you ever distort the views of others you quote.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

You may respond that you write polemic, not history.

Then Peter further said:

No, I write both.

Daniel responds:

In one article? I question how we are supposed to separate your historical writing from your polemic. Earlier I suggested you include some sort of disclaimer in your polemical writing so we know when to take you seriously. Otherwise I fear we will have to assume you are always writing polemic, and not history.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

Of course, all your sources are theoretically public

Then Peter further said:

You are very much missing the point. On an email list like this one, every post you reply to is not just "theoretically" public, it is actually public, with no need to buy any books or visit any libraries. All you need is a click of the mouse. Anybody reading this post has already read the previous posts in the thread. If you think this is an unreasonable approach to email discussion, could you perhaps explain why?

Daniel responds:

Chalk that up as a distortion. I was talking about both your e-mails and your articles, and not jsut your e-mails as you reply would suggest. By shortening my original quote, it is not clear what I was actually writing about. This is exactly what I am suggesting you could avoid by longer quotation. Everything you say is true about an e-mail list. But it does not help the readers of your articles, whether they read them on the web or in a magazine, and that was the entire point of my original paragraph.

Daniel Hindes

...................................................................................................................................

From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Thu Mar 4, 2004 9:08 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel,

I was talking about emails.

Peter

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 9:25 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Peter Staudenmaier:

I was talking about emails.

Daniel:

And I was talking about emails AND articles. But you didn't respond to what I was talking about, you selectively snipped and then talked about something different. When I try to point this out, you reiterate that you were, indeed, misquoting me. Thanks.

For review:

Peter Staudenmaier wrote:

Selective quotation is only a bad idea when others do not have access to the original. That is obviously not the case on a public email list. Everybody reading your reply to me has already read the post that you're replying to, and so forth. In these circumstances it makes much more sense to quote the specific portion you'd like to reply to. The rest of us can always go back and check the earlier post for the full argument.

Daniel replied:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings. You may respond that you write polemic, not history. If you'd do take that stance, then you are essentially telling all your readers that they cannot actually trust anything the you write, for at any point your examples may not actually support your argument as they may appear to, and the summaries and explanations that you give may intentionally not accurately represent the things are describing at all. Of course, all your sources are theoretically public, and anyone could go out and acquirer four-foot stack of books and spend a month or two checking you (provided, of course, they read German). But certainly you don't expect to a majority of your readers to do this, so essentially you have put us on noticed not trust anything you say. Perhaps you might consider being upfront about this in your articles, and lead off with a disclaimer of some sort.

To which Peter Staudenmaier first snipped out this portion:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it.

Then Peter said:

No. Altering the original meaning is not what quotation is for. It's not okay to alter the original meaning no matter how much or how little you quote. One of the functions of quotation is to summarize the original meaning. That is, in part, what quotation is for. In this sense, all quotation is necessarily 'selective'. If you think I have altered the meaning of any of the passages I have quoted, please point them out.

Daniel replies:

Ok. So first you agree that the purpose of selective quotation is not to alter the original meaning. On the other hand, you say, "all quotation is necessarily 'selective'.". This means that altering the original meaning is actually inevitable. So if every instance of selective quotation necessarily alters the original meaning, we should be discussing how much the alteration alters the original, and not whether. In my own writing, I try to avoid the charges altogether by erring on the side of length rather than shortness, and quoting in entireity, or at least in whole paragraphs. In some of your attack pieces, you have quoted as short as individual words, which I would argue has something like a 99.9% chance of altering the original meaning significantly, especially in polemical writing. I will take you up on your offer, and try to point out your alterations whenever time permits. I should also point out that I am not the only one capable of determining when a selective quotation alters the meaning of the original, and I have heard dozens of complaints about your quotations from others on this list.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings.

Then Peter further said:

That is foolish. Quite apart from the fact that this is not the technique I employ, we are talking about an email list with a very easily accessible public archive. It is a waste of bandwidth to quote every bit of every post you respond to. The proper procedure is to quote the specific part you're replying to.

Daniel responds:

The reply avoids fact that I was talking about your articles as well as your emails, Peter. In writing about Steiner you also snip out just those parts you are talking about as well. The accusation I am making is that your method in doing this distorts the original to a degree that is more than normal discourse would allow. I have duly noted your denial that you ever distort the views of others you quote.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

You may respond that you write polemic, not history.

Then Peter further said:

No, I write both.

Daniel responds:

In one article? I question how we are supposed to separate your historical writing from your polemic. Earlier I suggested you include some sort of disclaimer in your polemical writing so we know when to take you seriously. Otherwise I fear we will have to assume you are always writing polemic, and not history.

Peter Staudenmaier next snipped:

Of course, all your sources are theoretically public

Then Peter further said:

You are very much missing the point. On an email list like this one, every post you reply to is not just "theoretically" public, it is actually public, with no need to buy any books or visit any libraries. All you need is a click of the mouse. Anybody reading this post has already read the previous posts in the thread. If you think this is an unreasonable approach to email discussion, could you perhaps explain why?

Daniel responds:

Chalk that up as a distortion. I was talking about both your e-mails and your articles, and not jsut your e-mails as you reply would suggest. By shortening my original quote, it is not clear what I was actually writing about. This is exactly what I am suggesting you could avoid by longer quotation. Everything you say is true about an e-mail list. But it does not help the readers of your articles, whether they read them on the web or in a magazine, and that was the entire point of my original paragraph.

...................................................................................................................................

From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 3:15 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

And I was talking about emails AND articles.

Yes, that's the problem. Those are two very different things. Quotation procedures that make sense in the one are not always appropriate in the other.

But you didn't respond to what I was talking about, you selectively snipped and then talked about something different. When I try to point this out, you reiterate that you were, indeed, misquoting me. Thanks.

I didn't misquote you.

[from another thread:]

In his last round of responses, he bundled four different threads into one response, convieniently removing any reference at all to where I made the original argument.

This is frequently a helpful way to reply to multiple posts on related themes. Why does it bother you?

Peter

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 5:56 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

And I was talking about emails AND articles.

Peter Staudenmaier:

Yes, that's the problem. Those are two very different things. Quotation procedures that make sense in the one are not always appropriate in the other.

Daniel:

Skipping away from the original again, I see. Your statement here is, of course, eminently sensible, and of course I agree completely that quotation procedures that make sense in the one are not always appropriate in the other. However...

I never stated that the opposite was true, as this seems to imply (chalk that up as distortion number three). Nor did I suggest different standards of accuracy in one or the other. I suggested that since you have been less than scrupulous in one medium, we can suspect that you might carry this tendency over into another. Let's review the exchange:

For review:

Peter Staudenmaier wrote:

Selective quotation is only a bad idea when others do not have access to the original. That is obviously not the case on a public email list. Everybody reading your reply to me has already read the post that you're replying to, and so forth. In these circumstances it makes much more sense to quote the specific portion you'd like to reply to. The rest of us can always go back and check the earlier post for the full argument.

Daniel replied:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings. You may respond that you write polemic, not history. If you'd do take that stance, then you are essentially telling all your readers that they cannot actually trust anything the you write, for at any point your examples may not actually support your argument as they may appear to, and the summaries and explanations that you give may intentionally not accurately represent the things are describing at all. Of course, all your sources are theoretically public, and anyone could go out and acquirer four-foot stack of books and spend a month or two checking you (provided, of course, they read German). But certainly you don't expect to a majority of your readers to do this, so essentially you have put us on noticed not trust anything you say. Perhaps you might consider being upfront about this in your articles, and lead off with a disclaimer of some sort.

Peter Staudenmaier snipped this to:

Of course, all your sources are theoretically public

And then Peter responded:

You are very much missing the point. On an email list like this one, every post you reply to is not just "theoretically" public, it is actually public, with no need to buy any books or visit any libraries. All you need is a click of the mouse. Anybody reading this post has already read the previous posts in the thread. If you think this is an unreasonable approach to email discussion, could you perhaps explain why?

Daniel responded:

Chalk that up as a distortion. I was talking about both your e-mails and your articles, and not jsut your e-mails as you reply would suggest. By shortening my original quote, it is not clear what I was actually writing about. This is exactly what I am suggesting you could avoid by longer quotation. Everything you say is true about an e-mail list. But it does not help the readers of your articles, whether they read them on the web or in a magazine, and that was the entire point of my original paragraph.

Peter Staudenmaier then simply said:

I was talking about emails.

And Daniel said:

And I was talking about emails AND articles. But you didn't respond to what I was talking about, you selectively snipped and then talked about something different. When I try to point this out, you reiterate that you were, indeed, misquoting me. Thanks.

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 5:56 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

But you didn't respond to what I was talking about, you selectively snipped and then talked about something different. When I try to point this out, you reiterate that you were, indeed, misquoting me. Thanks.

Peter Staudenmaier:

I didn't misquote you.

Daniel:

Really? The record indicates otherwise.

For review:

Peter Staudenmaier wrote:

Selective quotation is only a bad idea when others do not have access to the original. That is obviously not the case on a public email list. Everybody reading your reply to me has already read the post that you're replying to, and so forth. In these circumstances it makes much more sense to quote the specific portion you'd like to reply to. The rest of us can always go back and check the earlier post for the full argument.

Daniel replied:

Now that is an interesting position. Essentially, you state that you are justified in selectively quoting statements of others, even if this then alters the original meaning, because theoretically anyone can go back and look at the original statement to catch you at it. While this absolves you of any requirements to be fair or accurate, I have to point out that the logic of this justification will not fly among historians. In history, quoting sources out of context in a way that alters the original meaning is a cardinal sin and something than no historian can do and hope to be taken seriously. Completely independent of the question of the ethics of such a stance, I would suggest that as a habit it is dangerous. If this is consistent in your writing here, are you really sure you can successfully switch modes and go for strict accuracy when writing formally for publication?

If you are known to employ this technique here, we may quite rightly suspect that you employ it in your other writings. You may respond that you write polemic, not history. If you'd do take that stance, then you are essentially telling all your readers that they cannot actually trust anything the you write, for at any point your examples may not actually support your argument as they may appear to, and the summaries and explanations that you give may intentionally not accurately represent the things are describing at all. Of course, all your sources are theoretically public, and anyone could go out and acquirer four-foot stack of books and spend a month or two checking you (provided, of course, they read German). But certainly you don't expect to a majority of your readers to do this, so essentially you have put us on noticed not trust anything you say. Perhaps you might consider being upfront about this in your articles, and lead off with a disclaimer of some sort.

Peter Staudenmaier snipped this to:

Of course, all your sources are theoretically public

And then Peter responded:

You are very much missing the point. On an email list like this one, every post you reply to is not just "theoretically" public, it is actually public, with no need to buy any books or visit any libraries. All you need is a click of the mouse. Anybody reading this post has already read the previous posts in the thread. If you think this is an unreasonable approach to email discussion, could you perhaps explain why?

Daniel responded:

Chalk that up as a distortion. I was talking about both your e-mails and your articles, and not jsut your e-mails as you reply would suggest. By shortening my original quote, it is not clear what I was actually writing about. This is exactly what I am suggesting you could avoid by longer quotation. Everything you say is true about an e-mail list. But it does not help the readers of your articles, whether they read them on the web or in a magazine, and that was the entire point of my original paragraph.

Peter Staudenmaier then simply said:

I was talking about emails.

And Daniel said:

And I was talking about emails AND articles. But you didn't respond to what I was talking about, you selectively snipped and then talked about something different. When I try to point this out, you reiterate that you were, indeed, misquoting me. Thanks.

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Fri Mar 5, 2004 6:01 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Daniel wrote (to Diana, in a different thread):

In his last round of responses, he bundled four different threads into one response, convieniently removing any reference at all to where I made the original argument.

Peter Staudenmaier:

This is frequently a helpful way to reply to multiple posts on related themes. Why does it bother you?

Daniel:

Helpful to whom? It certainly helps you obscure the argument, as it makes tracking a thread difficult for subsequent readers of the archives. It bothers me in your case particularly because I have to check you so frequently, going back to see what I said and what statements I was responding to, in order to to figure out what you are responding to and how far off track the discussion has been directed, and this makes that research all the more difficult.

Daniel Hindes

...................................................................................................................................

From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Sat Mar 6, 2004 10:52 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel, thanks for your abundant posts. You wrote:

I agree completely that quotation procedures that make sense in the one are not always appropriate in the other. However...

I never stated that the opposite was true, as this seems to imply (chalk that up as distortion number three). Nor did I suggest different standards of accuracy in one or the other. I suggested that since you have been less than scrupulous in one medium, we can suspect that you might carry this tendency over into another.

I think you aren't making sense. There is absloutely nothing unscrupulous about skipping over large swaths of text in a public email discussion group. Doing so leaves nothing hidden and misleads no-one. That is precisely why the quotation procedures that are appropriate to archival materials are not appropriate to email. Once again: the distorting kind of selectivity is only a problem when others do not have access to the original. Since that is obviously not the case with email lists like this one, your worry is quite beside the point, in my view. Misquoting somebody generally means to quote them inaccurately, that is, to attribute to them words that they did not say or write. I have not done that with you. Misquoting does not mean skipping over those portions of your posts that you wish I had commented on. There is nothing wrong with picking and choosing what you want to reply to on an email list. Email lists are not journal articles, and they are not POW camps.

It certainly helps you obscure the argument, as it makes tracking a thread difficult for subsequent readers of the archives. It bothers me in your case particularly because I have to check you so frequently, going back to see what I said and what statements I was responding to, in order to to figure out what you are responding to and how far off track the discussion has been directed, and this makes that research all the more difficult.

I do not find this difficult, and I have no idea why you find it difficult. If you think that someone has misunderstood you, all you need to do is re-state your position.

And this is what sets you apart from serious historians.

Could you maybe say more about how you got your impression of what historians do? I think it is highly inaccurate. Intellectual and cultural history depends centrally on the sorts of sources I named, periodicals and official statements. You mentioned that you have some of George Mosse's books; surely you have noted that these are the sorts of things he relied on. Why do you think such an approach is improper in the case of anthroposophy?

A historian has the responsibility for attempting to the best of their ability to fairly present the entire case, and not just the part that fits their pet theory. Subsequent scholars generally have a dim view of so-called historians with obvious biases.

I disagree completely. I think you have a naive view of historians. There is nothing wrong with biases. The point is to make them explicit. I urge you to read the first three pages of chapter one in Yehuda Bauer's book Rethinking the Holocaust; you will get a very different view of bias. I also highly recommend the superb study of this very question by Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession, particularly the Introduction. Last, on the question of relativism, I recommend the Postscript to Michael Bentley's book Modern Historiography: An Introduction.

It is precicely in the fact that you fail to see how the rest of Steiner's work relates to his views on race that I consider your greatest weakness.

Great, let's argue about that.

If you did that, you would have an incomplete view of Besant. You could not claim to understand Besant, only her athiest writings.

No kidding. That's the point. If you want to get an accurate account of Steiner's views on race and ethnicity, it doesn't make sense to focus on his views on eurythmy.

I don't feel that you can get around the basic problem that if you don't understand Steiner's main points, you simply don't possess the historical context in which to evaluate the rest of the quotes.

If I understand you correctly, I think you've made a major error. It is entirely backwards, in my view, to first decide what you think "Steiner's main points" were, and then slot his specific statements about race into that pre-fabricated construct.

Peter

...................................................................................................................................

From: at
Date: Sat Mar 6, 2004 4:42 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Morality and Racism - Selective quotation

Hi Daniel, thanks for your abundant posts. You wrote:

I agree completely that quotation procedures that make sense in the one are not always appropriate in the other. However...

I never stated that the opposite was true, as this seems to imply (chalk that up as distortion number three). Nor did I suggest different standards of accuracy in one or the other. I suggested that since you have been less than scrupulous in one medium, we can suspect that you might carry this tendency over into another.

Peter Staudenmaier:

I think you aren't making sense. There is absloutely nothing unscrupulous about skipping over large swaths of text in a public email discussion group. Doing so leaves nothing hidden and misleads no-one. That is precisely why the quotation procedures that are appropriate to archival materials are not appropriate to email. Once again: the distorting kind of selectivity is only a problem when others do not have access to the original. Since that is obviously not the case with email lists like this one, your worry is quite beside the point, in my view. Misquoting somebody generally means to quote them inaccurately, that is, to attribute to them words that they did not say or write. I have not done that with you. Misquoting does not mean skipping over those portions of your posts that you wish I had commented on. There is nothing wrong with picking and choosing what you want to reply to on an email list. Email lists are not journal articles, and they are not POW camps.

Daniel:

Ok. I have noted you denial, and I think I understand your position. The fact remains, whether something is true or not is independet of whether the speaker believes it to be true or not. You can justify it any which way you want, your record remains.

Daniel wrote:

It certainly helps you obscure the argument, as it makes tracking a thread difficult for subsequent readers of the archives. It bothers me in your case particularly because I have to check you so frequently, going back to see what I said and what statements I was responding to, in order to to figure out what you are responding to and how far off track the discussion has been directed, and this makes that research all the more difficult.

Peter Staudenmaier:

I do not find this difficult, and I have no idea why you find it difficult. If you think that someone has misunderstood you, all you need to do is re-state your position.

Daniel:

Indeed. And when I find myself doing this with just about every post, I start to wonder who I'm talking to and why they find it necessary to resort to such games. Is it perhaps that their argument is so weak that it can't stand up to direct scrutiny?

Daniel wrote:

"And this is what sets you apart from serious historians."

Daniel comments: (What is it that I say sets Mr. Staudenmaier apart from other historians? Oh, I'll have to look it up, because it is not included here. How inconvienient. I hope it is at least under the same thread heading).

To this Peter Staudenmaier said:

Could you maybe say more about how you got your impression of what historians do? I think it is highly inaccurate. Intellectual and cultural history depends centrally on the sorts of sources I named, periodicals and official statements. You mentioned that you have some of George Mosse's books; surely you have noted that these are the sorts of things he relied on. Why do you think such an approach is improper in the case of anthroposophy?

Daniel responds:

Well, to reiterate (I found it, and it was under a different thread heading. Figures. Appearently keeping a discussion on-thread is "inconvienient"):

Daniel wrote:

You have made no attempt whatsoever to determine what the majority of Anthroposophists thought about Hitler or Nazism at the time.

To which Peter Staudenmaier replied:

Indeed. What I focus on is what anthroposophical periodicals published at the time, what anthroposophical officials said at the time, and so forth.

And then Daniel said:

And this is what sets you apart from serious historians. Further, the mere fact that you focus on what anthroposophical periodicals published at the time and what anthroposophical officials said at the time, etc. does not tell the whole story, for you only focus on those aspects of these sources that support your contention, and not what all these sourcs say on the balance. You are stuck in polemic if all you do is look for the parts you like and ignore the whole.

Daniel continues:

It makes a little more sense in context (chalk that up as number four) I think I am rather clear on what I expect of a "historian" in what I wrote above. What did Mr. Staudenmaier say to this? He questions my basic grasp of history. Slick moves.

In the snipped portion of the above text, I questioned whether SELECTIVE USE of ONLY periodicals and official documents can ever create a COMPREHENSIVE PICTURE of the period being investigated. If this is "highly inaccurate" then I'm living in a different reality than Mr. Staudenmaier. Uriel Tal relied not just on periodicals, but went to family archives and quoted extensively from personal letters of the principles involved in order to build a COMPREHENSIVE picture of those aspects of the time period he was studying. He quoted pro and con, from both sides of the issue, in order to recreate the mood and thought patterns of the time period. That is first rate scholarship. That is what I don't find in Peter Staudenmaier's articles. For pointing this out I am being accused of ignorace of basic methods and philosophy of history. Nice attempt to take back the initive.


Daniel wrote:

A historian has the responsibility for attempting to the best of their ability to fairly present the entire case, and not just the part that fits their pet theory. Subsequent scholars generally have a dim view of so-called historians with obvious biases.

Peter Staudenmaier:

I disagree completely. I think you have a naive view of historians. There is nothing wrong with biases. The point is to make them explicit. I urge you to read the first three pages of chapter one in Yehuda Bauer's book Rethinking the Holocaust; you will get a very different view of bias. I also highly recommend the superb study of this very question by Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession, particularly the Introduction. Last, on the question of relativism, I recommend the Postscript to Michael Bentley's book Modern Historiography: An Introduction.

Daniel responds:

Thanks for condescending to educate me by proxy on the methods and practices of history. I think you'll find that I am at least as well prepared as yourself in this area. There is only "nothing wrong with biases" in that everybody necessarily has one. Reducing bias is the aim, not indulging it to all its excesses. If you indulging your biases to all their excesses, you are writing polemic, or polemical history. This is not to say that such writing doesn't have its place or uses, but it is generally a poor subsititute for the real thing. If you disagree, I encourage you to formulate your objection yourself, or post the authorities you wish to cite directly to the list. I could, for example, give you a long list of books on empiricism vs. idealism, but I take it upon myself to speak directly on the subject.


Daniel wrote:

It is precicely in the fact that you fail to see how the rest of Steiner's work relates to his views on race that I consider your greatest weakness.

Peter Staudenmaier:

Great, let's argue about that.

Daniel:

I don't see that there is much to argue. I have presented a case for why it is important. You have agreed with every example, and then leap away again whenever we come back to Steiner. Basically, you say that it is good in principle, but unnecessary in this case. That is illogical. Doubtless you will continue to argue.

Daniel wrote:

If you did that, you would have an incomplete view of Besant. You could not claim to understand Besant, only her athiest writings.

Daniel comments: (Did what and you would have an incomplete view of Besant? Is Mr. Staudenmaier even responding to my point, or is he arguing my point back against me? Oh, I'll have to look it up, because it is not included here. How inconvienient. I hope it is at least under the same thread heading.)

Peter Staudenmaier:

No kidding. That's the point. If you want to get an accurate account of Steiner's views on race and ethnicity, it doesn't make sense to focus on his views on eurythmy.

Daniel:

Well, if you reject a priori that his views on Eurythmy could have any relationship to his views on race and ethnicity, then you certainly will never discover if they do. Back to Besant (I found what I wrote, and it was under a different thread heading. Figures. Appearently keeping a discussion on-thread is "inconvienient"):

First Peter Staudenmaier wrote:

I don't think that would be a sensible way to approach the matter. If you want to study Annie Besant's atheist writings, for example, you'd do well to set aside her Theosophical writings.

To which Daniel replied:

If you did that, you would have an incomplete view of Besant. You could not claim to understand Besant, only her athiest writings. The same applies to Steiner. If you want to be an expert on those quotes that make Steiner appear racist, so be it. If you want to be an expert on Steiner, you'll have to do a little more work than that. I can understand you hesitency to attempt an full understanding of Steiner - it is a lot of work, after all - but I don't feel that you can get around the basic problem that if you don't understand Steiner's main points, you simply don't possess the historical context in which to evaluate the rest of the quotes.

Daniel continues:

It appears that Peter Staudenmaier has missed the point on this completely. I essentially stated that you can't fully understand Steiner unless you know BOTH his allegedly racist statements AND his views on eurythmy. Peter Staudenmaier sarcastically states "no kidding" and then argues the opposite. (Distortion number five; reading only what he provided, you would think I had just argued the opposite of what I did).

Daniel wrote:

I don't feel that you can get around the basic problem that if you don't understand Steiner's main points, you simply don't possess the historical context in which to evaluate the rest of the quotes.

Peter Staudenmaier:

If I understand you correctly, I think you've made a major error. It is entirely backwards, in my view, to first decide what you think "Steiner's main points" were, and then slot his specific statements about race into that pre-fabricated construct.

Daniel:

It doesn't matter what direction you approach things from, the point is to look at the whole picture. So no, I have not made a "major error". You can either decide what Steiner's main points are and then look at his appearently racist statements and their context, both within his work and within his entire culture, or you can look first at his appearently racist statements and their context, both within his work and within his entire culture, and then consider what Steiner's main points are. Either way you should come to the same results, and if you don't, then it is time to start considering where the errors of understanding lay. What I accuse you of is starting at one end and then stopping half way through. It makes little sense to stop halfway, whichever end you start at.

Daniel Hindes

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Click to subscribe to anthroposophy_tomorrow
 

March/April 2004

The Uncle Taz "Anthroposophy Tomorrow" Files

Anthroposophy & Anarchism

Anthroposophy & Scientology

Anthroposophical Morsels

Anthroposophy, Critics, and Controversy

Search this site powered by FreeFind