Wednesday, April 28, 2021


Postulates and Methods of the Very Learned

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), "The Higher Criticism," Selected Essays (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1948), pp. 102-107 (at 102-103):
The Very Learned when they desire to fix the date or the authenticity or both of a piece of literature, adopt among other postulates, these:

(1) That tradition doesn't count.

(2) That common sense, one's general knowledge of the time, and all that multiplex integration which the sane mind effects from a million tiny data to a general judgement, is too tiny to be worthy of their august consideration.

(3) That the title 'Very Learned' (which gives them their authority) is tarnished by any form of general knowledge, and can only be acquired by confining oneself to a narrow field in which any fool could become an absolute master in about two years.

These are their negative postulates in dealing with a document.

As to their positive methods, of one hundred insufficient tricks I choose in particular these:

(1) The establishment of the date of the document against tradition and general air, by allusion discovered within it.

(2) The conception that all unusual events recorded in it are mythical, and therefore necessarily anterior to the document.

(3) The supposition that religious emotion, or indeed emotion of any kind, vitiates record.

(4) The use of a single piece of co-relative documentary evidence to destroy that general judgement.

(5) The fixed dogma that most writers of the past have spent most of their time in forging.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?