[KS] assessing historical meanings - Mr. Yoon

Witteveen GP sjmi_y at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 6 07:55:50 EDT 2010

Musing on this Labor Day holiday in USA:
The example of calling a glass half-empty or half-full comes to mind; that is, the same agreed upon events can be seen differently then and now; differently by each party, and different to a 3rd party viewing the events from a distant, wide-angle point of view. The nomos/physis distinction I learned from classic Greece applies here: taking away all cultural context you are left with the bare facts (the explosion and direct, immediate damage): the physis of the thing. But by taking into account the storylines leading up to the event and after, as well as intentionality and concentric rings to frame the scope of significance, one comes up with diverging interpretations: the nomos of the thing. Must an event be always assessed in the vivid and urgent relativistic terms, or can an event's net result be agreed upon by (most) all parties? It seems that the initial fact, as well as the final outcomes years later are empirical questions: yes, this happened in
 such a way; yes, the impact was small, medium or large. But beyond those pale judgments, there is much room for interpretations of each generation looking back, and room for interpretations of each side concerned in the matter.
As scholars sometimes trying to be dispassionate, though, we may seek a final or absolute assessment about the meaning of an event. We do this by threading together the parts of each side's perspective that seem salient to us as bystanders. But it would be dishonest to say that a scholarly synthesis can displace, trump or otherwise discredit the particular meaningfulness (or cultural "truthiness" --likeness to and resonance with a cultural truth) that is local to one side or to the other. In sum, the event and its net significance may be agreed upon, but in between those points there is a vast middle ground of multiple interpretations to account for.

--Guven Witteveen, sjmi_y at yahoo.com
middle Michigan

--- On Sun, 9/5/10, koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws <koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws> wrote:

Date: Sun, 5 Sep 2010 14:32:46 +0200
From: Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>
Subject: Re: [KS] Official end of WWII in Asia

Dear all,

am I the only one who has second thoughts regarding this thread? 
Let me put it this way: In today's world, would Mr. Yoon's deeds be regarded as an act of heroism? Or as an example of another -ism? Not that such a discussion would lead us very far on this list, but I find it interesting to observe how blowing up a person (or ripping off one of his legs) with a bomb can be interpreted in very different ways depending on... on what? On context? On culture? On vantage point? 

Best wishes, Rudiger Frank

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