We regret that development. Ophelia Benson brought a keen wit and wide-ranging interest in historical matters to Cliopatria. We will miss her. Her resignation came, however, as no great surprise. Repeatedly, she foreshadowed it with references to its possibility. I interpreted them as threats and urged her not to leave. She said she was merely thinking about it. In the end, however, she was unwilling to participate in discussions in which certain kinds of questions were asked and certain kinds of statements were made. Repeatedly, several of us urged her to stand her ground, remain among us, and make her case for the kind of empiricist inquiry she believes history to be. In the end, she decided that she would not. She has resigned from Cliopatria. Several Cliopatriarchs are now unwelcome to discussions at Butterflies and Wheels and Cliopatria has been deleted from its blogroll. Still, we welcome Ophelia Benson to comments here and Butterflies and Wheels remains on our blogroll.
I disagree with both Ophelia Benson's sense of what historical inquiry is and ought to be and with some of the claims made by Hugo Schwyzer. More important than her departure from us, however, are other responses on the net to his claims. Jonathan Dresner pointed to the responses by Brian Ulrich at Brian's Study Breaks and Anne Zook at Peevish. There is, yet, a third response by The Little Professor. My colleague, Hugo Schwyzer, ought to ponder all three of those critiques of his claims and to keep in mind that the Little One is especially well qualified to speak to these issues because she is a student of earlier efforts at writing providential history or, as the Germans call it, heilsgeschichte.
Let me be clear: it is not the business of historians to write heilsgeschichte. As one of my seminary professors irreverently put it: heilsgeschichte/horsegeschichte. Providential history is horsegeschichte because, as Jonathan Dresner pointed out, it is not subject to falsification. History as we know it must be subject to proof and disproof. Providential history is not. Having said that, I do think that the writing of history relies on a meta-historical frame of reference which is clearly biblical in origin. Beyond that, it is one largely shared by historians of whatever persuasion, even if they are overtly hostile to religious belief. We are indebted to the Hebrews, Mark Noll and Hugo Schwyzer, -- not to the Christians -- for a linear view of history. It essentially assumes that history had a beginning somewhere in the distant past and that it moves toward some end. Its linearity means that individuals and events are unique and distinct. They are not repetitions of the same; nor are they interchangeable parts. It often assumes that something drastically changed a right beginning and anticipates the hope of a restoration at history's end. Whether done by Marxists, conservatives, progressives, feminists, or liberal humanists, virtually all history -- including that respected by our friends at Butterflies and Wheels -- is done with these meta-historical faith assumptions. Without them, it is a vanity.
Finally, our pluralism at Cliopatria will assure our readers that we are not and will not become a"religious site" and that our hard-nosed colleagues will scrub the"woolly thinking" of the rest of us. And if they fail to do so, three new Cliopatriarchs will join us shortly. If they do not part the waters, they will surely stir them even further.