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Philosophy of history vs. museum tangibles and specifics

Posted Oct 22 2008 12:32pm

In her  short obituary of George E. Palade  — who was the first to identify what was later called ribosomes (thus a shared Nobel prize in 1974 ) — Andrea Gawrylewski, staff writer at The Scientist,  refers in passing to something that Palade wrote in his  autobiographical essay:

My father had hoped I was going to study philosophy at the University, like himself, but I preferred to deal with tangibles and specifics, and - influenced by relatives much closer to my age than he was - I entered the School of Medicine of the University of Bucharest (Romania) in 1930.

Interesting opposition between philosophy and medical science as dealing with ‘tangibles’ and ’specifics’. Wonder if this is valid for historians too? Is there an opposition between being interested in the philosophy of history and preferring to work with historical tangibles and specifics, as we do in museums?

I for my part believe it is possible to embrace both — but maybe I’m naive. In fact, most people I know are either-or. Does this have anything to do with personality structure? Or is it an institutional thing?

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