Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nibley's Four Approaches to Learning IV

The last of Nibley's four approaches to learning is:
4. We can meet the opposition on their own grounds, publishing in their journals (which are open to all) and presenting the clear evidence of the original sources. This is exactly what we have not been doing. We have fondly supposed through the years that we could mask out inadequacy behind the awesome facade of titles and degrees; our intellectuals rest their whole case on that very authoritarianism of rank and protocol which they have always affected to despise. (Hugh Nibley, "Nobody to Blame," in Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 17, ed. Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2008), 132.)
One of the interesting things about this open letter that Nibley wrote is its timing. Up to this point, Nibley had published the following articles in scholarly journals:
  1. "New Light on Scaliger" (1942)
  2. "Sparsiones" (1945)
  3. "The Arrow, the Hunter, and the State" (1949)
  4. "The Hierocentric State" (1951)
  5. "The Unsolved Loyalty Problem: Our Western Heritage" (1953)
  6. "Victoriosa Loquacitas: The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else" (1956)
  7. "Christian Envy of the Temple" (1959-60)
  8. 5 book reviews
He had published many other articles in Latter-day Saint publications. Some of his articles in scholarly venues that more overtly supported his faith had yet to appear:
  1. "The Passing of the Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme" (1961)
  2. "Evangelium Quadriginta Dierum" (1966)
These articles, which discuss the apostasy and the reality of the resurrection respectively, were originally published in secular venues and used original sources to make his arguments. Nibley also realized that some arguments could not be published in academic venues: for some it was not appropriate, and others simply would not be accepted. But Nibley argued for his position on meeting the challenge of the learned world from experience. There was a point in his life when he lost interest in doing that sort of thing but he had paid his dues.

Fifty years later, there are a number of Latter-day Saint scholars who have taken up Nibley's position but unfortunately it is still a minority position. The trap that he noted that intellectuals fall into is still a trap that too many fall into. Nibley was able to point to a more excellent way, but few there be who find it.