Friday, June 16, 2006

Participant observation after the fact, basic principle behind traditional narrative history?

Building quite a list of different ways of looking at the same basic principle of authoring history from the participant's perspective:

1. Hindsight bias: things are always easier to explain after the fact, but what about learning by trial and error?, or if you don't heed history, you're doomed to repeat it? (See mathematician-probability expert Nasim Taleb's Fooled By Randomness)

2. Historian's fallacy: The daily David Hackett Fischer bracing logical fallacy constitutional in which writing history becomes almost impossible, reactionary but actually more deconstructionist than deconstructionism?

3. "Fog of war technique" in military history, Clausewitz's military-political leader embedded in a trinity of: 1. the highly contingent, 2. politically charged, 3. primal emotions of aggression and violence, fighting, Konrad Lorenz, adrenalin, berserker, defending the family hearth, motherland, ultra-nationalism (Please note I am not advocating this dark side of the human psyche...Where I saw the "fog or war" recently).

To really understand this approach, you have to embed yourself in a complex obsessively documented and reconstructed historical narrative. The best has to be the Battle of Waterloo reconstructed by David Hamilton-Williams. General Clausewitz appears from time to time in the mists. It's spooky how many similarities I'm finding to pre-modern history of war in Burma especially the sociology of tbe ruling elite and the use cunningness and deception, Machiavellian universals in world political-military history?

4. Monte Carlo simulations "Monte Carlo methods are especially useful in studying systems with a large number of coupled degrees of freedom, such as liquids, disordered materials, and strongly coupled solids. More broadly, Monte Carlo methods are useful for modeling phenomena with significant uncertainty in inputs, such as the calculation of risk in business."(See mathematician-probability expert Nasim Taleb'sin Fooled By Randomness)

5. Counterfactuals with the alternative virtual histories enumerated and described by historical actors themeselves (See Niall Ferguson in Virtual History and also Thought Experiment)

6. Lastly, I just realized that participant observation , the tradition of anthrolpologists observing cultures in the field has a great similarity if you envision your historical sources from the first person perspective as being a sort of way of observing past events through the eyes of the participant.

Anyway, narrative history, the original form of historical texts, puts primacy on human agency and chance (individuals buffetted in a gigantic sea of deterministic causal waves pushing them gradually to the shore) as the driving force behind history.