Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 19:14:47 -0400

From: Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU

Subject: Presentism Again

The earliest citation I have found for _presentism_ is the following:

1943 Robert M. Hutchins _Education for Freedom_ 31-32 A second reason why

some people doubt the social utility of the education I favor is that they

belong to the cult of immediacy, or of what may be called presentism. In

this view the way to comprehend the world is to grapple with the reality

you find about you. ... There is no past.

Hutchins uses the word in the sense 'a bias toward the present' rather

than in the sense Ms. Gibbens was looking for, 'viewing the past through

the lens of present-day attitudes.' For the latter sense, the following

are the earliest citations I have found:

1950 Chester M. Destler in _American Historical Review_ 55: 507 It can be

seen that subjectivist-relativist-presentism, plus the definition of

history and thought, and the distrust of concepts of causality,

continuity, and the possibility of generalization, constitute together the

conceptual foundations of the new school of historical theory.

1951 _Amer. Hist. Rev._ 56: 451 The concept of "presentism" as it is

described in Mr. Destler's article has no counterpart among serious


Still earlier citations may lie in Merriam-Webster's files, since

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives a dating of 1923 for

_presentism_. Can anyone from Merriam-Webster subscribing to this list

provide the earliest citations from those files for the two senses of the




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