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The Killing of History by Keith Windschuttle

The Killing of History (1996)

by Keith Windschuttle

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The anti-reason juggernaut of "postmodern" philosophy is sweeping through the world's universities, infecting every academic discipline in its path. Australian historian Keith Windschuttle is one of the few courageous academics to step forward to uphold reason and objectivity. This book provides a rousing defense of history as an objective science and unmasks the destructive ideas of the postmodern irrationalists.

Windschuttle provides an overview of all the major variants of postmodern philosophy, in clear and understandable terms - something, he notes, that has never been done by the postmodernists themsleves. The common theme of these philosophies, he concludes, is that scientific induction is invalid, that all truth is relative, and that "we are locked within a closed system of language and culture, which refers not beyond our minds to an outside world but only inwardly to itself."

With respect to history, the postmodernist view is that it is all subjective fiction and that the historian is therefore free to disregard the facts or even to make them up. Windschuttle examines, for instance, how postmodern historians attempt to whitewash and downplay the Aztec practices of human sacrifice and cannibalism, equating them with European practices to support the doctrine that all cultures are equal. In another example, Windschuttle shows how postmodernist guru Michael Foucault fabricated facts and misplaced historical events by as much as a century to support his contention that a growing acceptance of reason leads to increasing oppression.

The ultimate result of postmodernism, Windschuttle correctly concludes, is "the return of tribalism." By demanding "respect" for tribal cultures, the postmodernists are sanctioning a return to "differentiating between human beings on the basis of genealogical blood lines, in other words, on racial grounds." By contrast, Windschuttle claims, "It is the universalism of Western science that recognizes all human beings as the same people with the same origins....It is Western universalism that is anti-racist, not relativism."

In support of this "univeralism," Windschuttle upholds the idea of history as a science. He demonstrates the objectivity of historical evidence and defends the validity of scientific induction. (Notably, he rejects the anti-induction ideas of Karl Popper, who is often mistaken as a defender of science.)

The author does make his own philosophical errors. For example, he tends to reject all "cultural" explanations of historical events - which he equates with the postmodernists' collectivist determinism - in favour of a more concrete-bound empiricism. Such errors, however, are minor.

This book offers a frighteningly clear portrait of the disastrous implications of postmodernism - and issues an inspiring call to defend science, objectivity and the fundamental values of Western civilization. ( )
3 vote Toolroomtrustee | Aug 16, 2012 |
There are many excesses and absurdities in postmodern theory, as there are in any other academic movement or endeavor. However, Windshuttle in this book merely shows himself either disingenuous or incapable of reading. If you were to follow his prescriptions to their logical extent, no historian's work would ever be acceptable. ( )
1 vote sotirfan | Apr 23, 2010 |
A critique of social and historical theory written from the right.
  Fledgist | Feb 24, 2008 |
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History is an intellectual discipline more than 2400 years old.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684844451, Hardcover)

Australian scholar Keith Windschuttle is one of the fieriest participants in the debate about the practice of history. In The Killing of History he decries the growth of so-called cultural studies in place of the old-fashioned facts-and-chronologies approach. Windschuttle's passion sometimes carries him a bit too far, but he lands many solid punches, such as when he takes on the heavily published French scholar Michel de Certeau, who has called writing a tool of the power elite. "For someone who thinks writing is a form of oppression," Windschuttle twits, "he has done a lot of writing." Elsewhere Windschuttle attacks efforts to explain away such matters as human sacrifice among the Aztecs, saying that to accept such behavior is akin to "accepting the cultures of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as equal but different."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:14 -0400)

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