History and Collective Memory

Defending the legitimacy of the category of “collective memory,” Maurice Halbwachs observes the following:

History is neither the whole nor even all that remains of the past. In addition to written history, there is a living history that perpetuates and renews itself through time and permits the recovery of many old currents that have seemingly disappeared (64).

Thus, in some respect, the “collective memory” provides the means by which a community recovers for itself things that it has forgotten or allowed to fall into the vague and dusty corners of its memory. Without such collective memory, these lost currents would have no presence in relation to the community and they would have to be recovered—if they would ever be recovered at all—in the same manner as the community discovers new things of which it had not previously been aware.


In this post:

Collective Memory
Maurice Halbwachs

Torah as Interpreted Torah

In an essay entitled “Paul and James on the Law in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Martin Abegg incisively observes that

The interpretation of the law, which had been revealed by God, is the focus of the phrase “works of the law” [at Qumran]. . . . No doubt the emphasis is on Torah in its entirety (see 1QS 8.1–2) but “obeying the law” was in accordance with the correct interpretation, that which had been revealed by God. . . . [T]he phrase does not simply mean “works of the law as God has commanded,” but rather “works of the law that God has commanded and revealed fully only to us” (72–73; italics original).

Thus, at least to a great degree, Torah functions not so much as it is in itself but as it is interpreted by the Qumran community. For this preeminently defining element, opposing interpretations were not credible (e.g., CD 1:13–2:1; 4Q266 f2i:21–f2ii:2). Consequently, entering and remaining in the community necessarily implied returning and adhering to Torah, where Torah was understood according to the proper conception of Torah that the community believed itself to have (e.g., CD 15:12–13; 1QS 5:8–10, 20–22; 4Q271 f4ii:3).


In this post:

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans

The Nature of Scientific Revolutions

When they happen, scientific revolutions occur suddenly by a process that may not be completely quantifiable, a fact that partially accounts for the controversy and opposition often experienced in the historical period surrounding a given revolution (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 89–90, 151–52, 159; cf. Barber 97–113; Poythress 461). Although certain criteria exist, based on the broader scientific community’s shared paradigm, by which a scientific community can evaluate a candidate paradigm (Achinstein 413; Kuhn, Essential Tension 321–22), these criteria’s applications and their relative weights are insufficiently discreet to facilitate paradigm choice by simple proof alone (Kuhn, Essential Tension 320, 329; cf. Carson 89–90; Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 94, 152, 160–87; Kuhn, Since Structure 208–15). Thus, one might best describe paradigm change as a kind of “conversion” (Kuhn, Essential Tension 338; cf. Poythress 473), and different conversions may have different magnitudes. Indeed, even a conversion to the same paradigm may have different magnitudes for different, scientific sub-communities (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 49–51, 92).

Seen according to the new paradigm, the old one appears mistaken (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 115; cf. Thiselton 712), for the community’s new paradigm directs the community to interpret observations differently than it had done before (Hung 8–9, 63; Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 206). Thus, in very close parallel to the classic gestalt switch, scientists who resolve a crisis by changing their paradigmatic allegiances come to view the same data from a different perspective and have, therefore, a different explanatory context for that data (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 84–85). In this way, the scientists who experience this switch reconceptualize their fields, objects of inquiry, and validation standards so radically that, for them, the hermeneutical world that they inhabit after the paradigm shift fundamentally differs from the one that they had previously inhabited (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 102–103, 109, 111–12, 118, 128–29; see also Grandy).1


1 For an extended study of one historical example of this process, see Kuhn, Copernican Revolution; for several additional, but briefer, examples, see Kuhn, Since Structure 13–32.

In this post:

Science Rules
Peter Achinstein
Bernard Barber
D. A. Carson
D. A. Carson
Thomas Nickles
Thomas Nickles
Beyond Kuhn
Edwin Hung
Copernican Revolution
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Moisés Silva
Moisés Silva
Thiselton on Hermeneutics
Anthony Thiselton