Eric Rauchway has an interesting post on objective historians or objective history making (or whatever the work of historians is called). He says you can’t do it, so you shouldn’t. To me, he’s mixing method and purpose. Of course, you have purpose when you’re doing research and this purpose colors your method. If you think FDR and the New Deal was the greatest thing since sliced bread, this will tend to have you favor facts that support that conclusion.
Objectivity is a discipline, a tool, for exploring reality. Its not the end, only the means. Rauchway believes historians shouldn’t attempt to separate purpose and method, they shouldn’t attempt objectivity because perfect separation is impossible. This is like saying athletes shouldn’t practice because not everyone can be Micheal Jordan.
The completely objective person is an instrument; he doesn’t have a soul. This was Nietzsche’s point when he called the scientists of his day self-polishing mirrors. The point, as should be obvious, isn’t that one shouldn’t polish one’s mirrors. Polishing is ok; just being a mirror isn’t.
At the recent “Stimulus Smackdown” here at Davis, Rauchway got up to ask the panel a question. Before he did so, he produced the throw-away line “I’m a historian; we don’t do models.” I know he was joking, but this is completely ridiculous. Of course, they do models, they just don’t explicitly write them down. This makes the job of objectivity hard, but I guess it allows the historian to be more whimsical. As a consumer of his product, of history, I’m not sure what his whimsy buys me, though.