I understand the impulse, but I find it surprisingly anti-intellectual for one committed to reason. I was trained to consider all points of view. When I studied the causes of the American Revolution or the Civil War or World War I, I had to know the different schools of thought. On any topic school of thought became secondary to the primary task of understanding the subject. And being aware of the different intellectual interpretations enabled me to better do that--or perhaps even to be prompted to strike out on my own by finding ideas and information that prompted me to look at the topic in fresh ways. Without the process--the adventure or drudgery of understanding even interpretations I question--I am never sure that I am doing anything more than reinforcing my own biases. Confining myself to the ditch of what I already think or believe or have concluded means that I am in danger of being past learning. I hunt in the forests of other scholars' thought for the trophies and the pitfalls that may be there. Your example tells me more about your politics than your scholarship. It says, in effect, I will not consider any ideas that conflict with my pre-conceived positions. Openmindedness is one way to grow. It allows one to read works of contrary perspectives in ways that test the limits of one's present thought and knowledge. I'm not trying to "convert" you but merely to suggest that I have found ideas that proved important and perspectives that caused me to rethink my positions and facts I'd missed elsewhere in suprising places. They have rarely transformed me, but they have enlightened me. I've been studying the nature of Western violence for a very long time, and beyond my own research into the historical record itself, the counterpoint provided by historians with whom I fundamentally disagree has been the chief strop for sharpening my own views. Their arguments have tested my conclusions and caused me, in turn, to clarify and strengthen my views, on the one hand, or to see flaws in my arguments, on the other. I see it as preemptive argument. If I know where and how I am going to be challenged, I can prepare for it. It is not my intent to be meanspirited here, but simply to offer some aspects of methodology that I think have served me well. I am, first and foremost, a student. Even here, my primary object is to learn.
Gary, How? By examining the marketing attached to the content. For example, if one looks at two titles for studies in political theory and one is titled something like POSTCOLONIAL PERSPECTIVES ON... more