Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jane Tompkins

One of my English classes assigned an essay for reading. The essay was Jane Tompkins' ""Indians": Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History." The essay argues the difficulty of discerning what really happened in the distant past.  Everything we can use as a source of knowledge came from a person who's perspective is different from everyone else's, and is slightly biased by default based upon the observers values and cultural beliefs.

"The problem [with finding the truth] is that if all accounts of the events are determined through and through by the observer's frame of reference, then one will never know, in any given case, what really happened."

Tompkins has a good point in this essay. Nothing we say about what others think or do can ever be completely true. We cannot really guess someone's motives, because we will never be able to see things from their unique perspective.

It's food for thought, this Tompkins essay. It makes me think twice about many assumptions I have made in the past, and warns against more in the future. It's an interesting and somewhat perplexing read which I reccomend highly. We could all stand to be a bit more open-minded...and we could all benefit from realizing that our own preconcieved notions about the world hold us back from so many opportunities...


  1. Yes, history is often written and re-written by the victors. We must be aware that all history is a matter of perspective and that all that we think we know is only true for the moment. Consider when the world was considered flat or the time that we thought the earth was the center of our solar system.
    As we learn and experience our truths change many times.

  2. Well said. The different ways of thinking I've developed since taking this course are what I love about it.


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