Dennis Martin wrote:
> It is inevitable that list members' contemporary religious, political etc. opinions will enter into their comments. I would be willing to affirm their knuckles being rapped _if_ such scoldings were applied across the board. However, I have noted that such is not the case. I tilt at windmills, I know, because any culture, including academic culture, has it's consensus prejudices and those who write from and thus express the consensus prejudices are not even aware of their own prejudices.
While I agree with you on this, I am not sure that Br. Bungolo would accept your characterization of his opinions as "contemporary," a particular kind of anachronism which does not occur in some of the other, regrettable instances you cite.
> I do however, recall snide and negative comments about particular political candidates (from the US political party to which studies show that about 8 % of all college and university professors belong) being aired on this list and seconded by several other listmembers without any dissent from listowners or others.
I was surprised at this as well. It is at this point that both instances share the same (intellectual) vice of the good 'ol ad hominem fallacy. This says more about the writer than the thing written.
> I know from past experience that it was worthless for me to demur, so I wrote nothing. But now, one last time, I ask, why is it that it is always presentist beliefs expressed by
> someone like Br.Alexis that get criticized for being "unrelated" to the purpose of the list whereas clear commitments to one side of feminist or gay or egalitarian/populist or other politically-culturally controversial issues, always, of course (as was the case with Brother Alexis) expressed in passing, go unscolded and even unnoticed?
but you have already answered your own question, or at least provided all the necessary bits. It's because the presentist beliefs, represented here only for the sake of argument by those of Br. Bungolo, are at greatest variance with precisely the consensus predjudice you've already described. They're a cat in a dog show. Of course they're singled out.
This doesn't justify that hypocrisy, however.
> When I have raised this in the past, I have been received surprised responses--what problem?
because, "those who write from and thus express the consensus prejudices are not even aware of their own prejudices," as you're already said so well yourself.
> The same applies to religious beliefs. George has in the past reminded us that we are not to express "confessional commitments" on the list. But "confessional" seems to be a code word for adherence to traditional Catholic or, very occasionally, traditional Lutheran or Evangelical Protestant views, never a strident commitment to a more liberal religious position or to agnostic or to extreme "hermeneutic of suspicion" presuppositions.
is agnosticism a religion? A religious view? A confession? Understand that I am not claiming that doubt = objectivity. Perhaps I'm just fooling myself, but I think that agnosticism (or perhaps just call it scepticism) is less liable to distort medieval beliefs than the modern beliefs which include beliefs about medieval beliefs. That may be either wrong or incomprehensible, but I'd like to know what you think.
> Obviously no easy solution and perhaps no solution at all is possible.
I prefer to think of it as a constant fight, like cholesterol. OK, that sounds like I'm belittling your objection. I just meant that it's always going to be with us and is a constant source of concern.
> I do not doubt that the most fruitfful course is to keep reminding people to stick to the medieval period and to try to avoid as much as possible letting their presentist concerns intrude. But this is fair only so long as it is applied across the board to homosexual, feminist, socialist, conservative, traditionalist, radical, etc. present concerns rather than selectively to those who find themselves swimming against the mainstream of academic culture these days.
while I must say that the minority seems well represented in online groups like this one, or at least they are very vocal, and while I think sticking to the MA is a good ground rule, I should point out that unless our posts are reduced to quotes and citations presentist concerns will leak in. I'm sure I'm not telling anyone anything new when I say that this is due to their presence in our interpretive strategies.
This last may also be dismissed as a modern, theoretical thingy, however.
> And let us beware of disguising our presentist prejudices and viewpoints under a "medieval" inqiuriy, e.g., asking when a certain "horrible" position on women or gays or dissent is first noticed in medieval documents. The solution here is quite simple: ask when a certain development began but spare us the throwaway lines, adjectives and adverbs etc. that reveal your presentist positions.
I couldn't agree more.