Blogs > Liberty and Power > Reflections on "Most Harmful Lists"

Jun 7, 2005 11:15 am

Reflections on "Most Harmful Lists"

I see the debate is still raging on so many threads both here at Liberty and Power and also at Cliopatria over the topic of"most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries." Talk about unintended consequences!

In any event, I decided to say a bit more about this topic at Notablog. In part, I write:

I have long held that there is a distinction between"intended" and"unintended" consequences, not only in a social context, but in a textual sense as well. (The study of the unintended consequences of a text has long been a focus of those trained in the methodology of"hermeneutics," which began in the realm of Biblical interpretation and scholarship.) No author can possibly know all the interpretations and misinterpretations, applications and implications, that might result from his/her writing—given that the context of knowledge changes and that different people coming from different perspectives will engage that writing differently. This does not mean that"objectivity" is impossible in the assessment of a given work. It just means that as analysts, we need to be very careful to distinguish between original intent and unintended consequences (be they good or bad). It also means that we are probably doomed to argue eternally about the legacy of any given writer.

Readers are invited to take a look at the whole post here. Comments welcome.

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