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Post Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; Prof. Roberto Villa
Created by John Eipper on 05/15/17 1:06 PM

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Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; Prof. Roberto Villa (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 05/15/17 1:06 pm)

I am grateful to Ángel Viñas (13 May) for explaining some concepts he used to clarify the differences between objectivity, impartiality or Right vs Left viewpoints in his posts, but with apologies, I am still confused by Ángel's distinctions.

If I understand correctly, objectivity implies addressing, studying, and analyzing topics in a way not distorted by emotions or biased ideas, thereby judging the quality of the topic independently of individual prejudices and values. Impartial means not to be prejudiced towards or against any particular side or party. Please correct me if I understand this wrong, but It seems to me then that to be objective and impartial are practically equivalents. I just wonder how it is possible to be objective and not impartial at the same time, unless of course these concepts are used in a particularly biased way.

Ángel also explained "My use of a binary formula (right-wing vs left-wing historians) is for simplicity's sake. I happen to believe though that as far as the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War go, it is a valid one. Obviously, another one could be used--i.e. bad vs good historians." Angel's binary formula would be acceptable for the sake of simplicity, if it were not for the fact that in all his statements so far he seems to imply or even accuse the right-wing historians of being the "bad historians." Of course this is explainable just as a sample of Angel's declared partiality.

Ángel asked me, "As far as ideology is concerned: would José Ignacio prove that the analysis of the Fascist dictatorships of the 20th century which has been carried out by a lot of historians is ideology-free?" Of course I cannot, as much as I can't prove that the analysis of the radical left-wing dictatorships of the 20th century carried out by historians is ideology-free. That is precisely the point. When you are a professional historian you have the ethical obligation to admit in your work that you are not impartial and therefore your judgments and interpretations of the historical facts might not be completely objective or unbiased. You should not try to disguise biased historical interpretations behind a supposedly objective scientific historical methodology.

He further asked me, "Would José Ignacio find facts (documents, testimonies, memories) among the insurgents of July 1936 in favor of democratic values? And more importantly, would he prove that those alleged values were in fact adhered to?" To answer this question in a rigorous way would demand from me more historical knowledge than what I have, and of course I would need to begin with the definition of democracy currently in use at the time. However, from an intuitive point of view I believe that it would also be very difficult to find clear modern democratic values in Spain's left-wing parties, very much inspired and supported by extremist socialist, trade unions, anarchist or communist ideologies and Stalin's autocratic and corrupt communist regime, which attempted to export by all means possible its revolution and to reach political power over Spain's still immature democratic institutions at the time.

Finally regarding Ángel's quotes on fellow WAISer Stanley Payne, I regret he did not mention Stanley's respected opinion on the Álvarez Tardío/Villa book. It would have been a more objective way of presenting contrasting opinions on the subject.

With this discussion now I fell very much obliged to read this book as soon as possible.

JE comments:  Me, too--although I almost feel I've already read it!

José Ignacio Soler forwarded an e-mail he received from one of the book's authors, Prof. Roberto Villa García, who has been following our discussion of his book.  While I do not (yet) have permission to publish Prof. Villa's letter, I will contact him and ask for a comment.

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