On the Kinds of Ancient History

From A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, a longish article on the varieties of ancient evidence. The modern world is resplendent with all kinds of evidence, but the further back in time you go, the less and less there is. There is a physical reason for this, of course: things decay over time. And despite the efforts of historians and archaeologists, this is likely to remain so.

In any case, the kinds of evidence are these:

  1. Literary Evidence: Long form written texts. We have these because effort was extended to make copies of them. What we have isn’t much (the entire Greek and Latin corpus fits in 523 volumes), and its unlikely to be added to. We can analyze it, but we can’t really improve upon it. There’s also epigraphy (words written on stone) and Papyrology (The Egyptians have a treasure trove of papyrus, because papyrus survives well in a desert climate, but these also have their difficulties.
  2. Representational Evidence: Pictures and art. Can give you lots of interesting ideas, but without strong literary evidence to attach it to; it becomes harder to interpret effectively, or even to attach to the right moment. It shows, but it does not speak.
  3. Archaelological Evidence: Stuff left behind. This is an exciting field, full of interesting info: but it also has its limitations. A quotation the author found worth putting in bold: “Most plagues, wars, famines, rulers, laws simply do not have archaeologically visible impacts, while social values, opinions, beliefs don’t leave archaeological evidence in any case.” That’s a really significant giveaway. A thing could happen, and be really important at the time, while leaving almost no trace of itself on the earth.
  4. Comparative Evidence: AKA, making bald-faced guesses based on what we know. All of which depend heavily on what assumptions you bring to the question. This is why philosophical trends in academia matter; they shape how we view our own past, and hence ourselves. This is best used with one or more of the other forms of evidence.

That’s it. That’s what we have. The Past is a foreign country and the ports of entry are few.

Storming Mottes & Baileys

A very long essay on Medium.com by Gerald Crayon, describing how the pretentious rhetoric of the Academy, their overheated logorrhea (which differs from Corpo-Babble only that it is more polysyllabic), serves to empty the culture of its meaning. The logic goes like this:

  1. Academic Jargon is deliberately obfuscatory, in order to gatekeep the positions. Crayon refers to this as a “pseudodiglossia” (Diglossia being a culture using two languages, as in medieval Europe, where the 1st Estate spoke Latin and the 2nd and 3rd spoke the vernacular). Learning to parse the gibberish makes people feel invested in the psuedodiglossia (for the same reason that people feel loyal to hazing fraternities and the Marine Corps; you suffered to get there) and the mindset that produced it.
  2. The glut of college degrees has sent forth intellectually-hazed postmodernists, each of whom understand the central texts less well than the person who taught it to them (just as each bebop hipster was less hip by the number of degrees of seperation he was from Dizzy, Monk, and Bird – See Hip, the History for further details). This, plus the Internet, enables nonsense postmodernism to be embraced by digital tribes. Everybody’s knows that nobody knows nothin’.
  3. Consequently, gibberish enables equivocation, as Successor Ideologies (The semi-Marxist post-liberal Revolutionism of the Rising Intersectional Oppressed), use “harm”, “privelege”, “racism”, etc., have both their common definitions, and a highly technical definition derived from the Pseudodiglossia. And like MiniTruthers, the Successor Ideologues know exactly when to shift from one definition to the other. This is known as the Motte & Bailey technique.
  4. Eventually, the slippier slope gets slippier. We move from pseudodiglossia to paradiglossia. The new rules of how to speak have not descended from the Ivory Tower, but are being slashed about in Real Time by every Twitter BlueCheck. Also, the players of the game have gotten hackier, relying less on creative orthography than basic rhetorical schemes, such as alliteration. It’s whatever you can get to go viral, for however long, before someone else moves the goal-posts again. Hence, we move during the Trump years from endless gibbering about “racism” to eternal jabbering about “White Supremacy”, without anything changing. Who decided this? No one. The Internet. What does it mean? Nothing. It’s word games all the way down.

The conclusion is that the system is going to keep going for a while for no better reason than it’s stormed its way through the institutions and is imposing its will. Dissidents and critics of this are on the outside, and don’t even know what they’re looking at, let alone how to stop it. The only thing we can do, at this point, is to simply point out how deep the Sophistic Rot has gone, to point out that the nonsense is nonsense, to refuse to call a deer a horse, and above all, to cease pretending that those who call a deer a horse are simply mistaken. This isn’t a difference of opinion; it is the Game of Thrones. Win or Die.