Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nibley is still smarter than you

I ran across an interesting post the other day.

The author described how the writings of Hugh Nibley have been used and abused by "Nibleyphiles". The author makes a good point describing how a scholar becomes an artifact of his age and often becomes displaced by newer research. I agree with this point, since I hope that in 30 years my research will be engaged and then supplanted. He or she also has some obligatory nice things to say about his research.

But many more points disturb me. He or she insults those who read his research as having a "fetish". And the author seems to bring up this post in response to some argument they had with somebody who quoted Nibley. The author supposedly wants to "move on" past Nibley, but what was the original point that inspired this post, did the author engage it, or just wave their hand? This is quite a problem, because in the field of warfare in the Book of Mormon, Nibley still has research which historians need to engage. Nibley's Clausewitzean analysis of war in the Book of Mormon has not been critiqued or overturned by newer research. My research into military thought within the Book of Mormon has borrowed from his methodology here and here. Likewise, his battle analysis of the war chapters in Alma has only one other rival (Sorenson) and remains the gold standard for strategic study. His research into the ideology behind the Title of Liberty is still insightful this many years later. And his research behind Jaredite warfare remains relevant to Asian studies I have done in posts such as this.

In short, Nibley's research into warfare cannot be dismissed with a wave of TT's hand. Nibley's research continues to inspire and engage people even today. (I am simply discussing military history implications since that is my speciality) Its rather arrogant to act as though you were a British Nanny in pip pipping others into what you think are appropriate areas. Its also unprofessional to write a post that is ostensibly praising somebody (Nibley) in order to slam other people (Nibleyphiles)for being insufficiently academic. (This includes the comments that the post inspired) Plus it reminds this reader of a clique in the bloggernacle and their intolerance towards those that dare think differently or use non Kosher scholars. I do agree that some people simply load their gun with Nibley facts unaware of current research, but TT's post comes off as simply an arrogant dismissal.

And until somebody can show me work that engages and supplants Nibley's Clausewitzean analysis, battle study, and other warfare research, then Hugh Nibley is still smarter than you.


In The Doghouse said...

I hate it when "the oldies but goodies" are dismissed for "new and improved" without as much as a blink. I do enjoy Nibley, but would not call myself a Nibleyphile at all. My point I guess is that some of the modern scholars simply think they are too smart for their own good. Give me an antiquarian book by a prophet any day! BTW I don't know a whole lot about war strategies but find what you write interesting. Thanks for trying to teach this "old Dog"!

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for the comment. This post was a little more harsh than I normally like to be, but I had a few things I needed to say.
And thanks for reading! I know my writing can be rather specialized sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Modern scholarship is inherently very specialized scholarship. When the sum of human knowledge is doubling every couple of years, it can't be any other way. You bring an important specialty to the table, and that is appreciated.