A Few Assertions
About the Nature of History
[Some of these ideas are from Frykenberg, Robert Eric. History
& Belief: The Foundations of Historical Understanding. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
- History is not independent of interpretation. Facts are always
placed within a framework.
- History is both objective and subjective. It has "a
factual impact". Certain historical records, occurrences, and data exist
independent of us and do guide and shape the way we interpret, yet history also has a
personal shape; different people ask different questions and end up with differing
observations about what the facts mean.
- History is a narrative: 1) it often focuses on individuals, their
identities, and their relationships with institutions; 2) it has a certain sequence and
contingency with a narrative pattern--one thing "follows" another for a reason;
3) it has a "story-worthiness" that explains why we are concerned with it; 4) it
often has a certain "trajectory of culmination," a certain end or purpose that
the historian feels it is leading up to.
- History may also have a deep sense of connection with the teller: it
helps explain who we presently are. (e.g. The Exodus, Christ's resurrection)
- History, from a Christian perspective, includes an account of God's
actions in the past. History, therefore, also shapes our faith: we better understand
what we believe on the basis of what God has done for us.
- Because Christians affirm the incarnation of Christ, the covenant God
made with Israel, and the particular circumstances surrounding the cultural makeup of the
early Church all as historical realities, we also affirm the historicity of human culture
in general. To affirm that God is, in some sense, eternal and therefore above time,
does not mean that we deny the particular time-bound nature of our own cultures or of
God's willingness to enter those cultures to speak to us, most perfectly in Christ in
- Likewise, to affirm that we are in part shaped by the particular
historical forces of our cultures' pasts does not negate that God has a universal will for
all cultures and times.
- In what ways does Twain's history of learning to be a riverboat pilot
or his early experience in the Civil War have a personal shape and importance to it?
- How does Twain present the narrative pattern or storyworthiness in
his two accounts?
- What do the two stories each reveal about Twain's values and
- Is humor naturally found in our pasts? Why or why not?
Tacit Knowing and Riverboat Piloting
[Some of these definitions are taken from material developed
by Dr. David Naugle.]
tacit knowing: "true knowledge involves personal
involvement in knowing, the link between knowing and responsibility. At the bottom
of all human activity are things that are known, but cannot be put into words."
This suggests that tacit knowledge is imparted through mentoring relationships in
which an apprentice is willing to submit to the master's way of doing things in order to
focal and subsidiary knowledge: "an awareness from and
awareness to." focal knowledge represents the activity that we focus on;
subsidiary knowledge represents the latent knowledge that we must have to perform the
task, i.e. bikeracing requires a great deal of subsidiary knowledge that the racer cannot
focus on in the midst of a race but must nonetheless have ingrained.
Michel Polanyi observes: "An
art which cannot be specified in detail cannot be transmitted by prescription, since no
prescription for it exists. It can be passed on only by example from master to apprentice
[. . .] To learn by example is to submit to authority. You follow your master because you
trust his manner of doing things even when you cannot analyse and account in detail for
its effectiveness. [. . .] These hidden rules can be assimilated only by a person who
surrenders himself to the extent uncritically to the imitation of another. A society which
wants to preserve a fund of personal knowledge must submit to tradition" (53)
- How does Twain's experience with riverboat piloting an example of
tacit knowledge and learning?
- According to Twain, what is the cost of his acquired skill? Is