Street art celebrating the real-life Louise Michel © Frédéric BISSON |Flickr
EducationEssaysFeaturePower and CrisisScienceTheory & Practice

What Could History Have Been?

Imagining new approaches to the humanities

“What could history have been?” The question asks how events might have turned out otherwise, if only X had happened instead of Y. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Hitler had? The official term for this kind of what-if thinking is “counterfactual history,” and it covers anything from an academic’s earnest attempt to imagine the US economy without railroads to Quentin Tarantino’s WWII redux Jewish revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds — anything, that is, which imagines history as it did not happen.

But the same question can be the spur to a different kind of speculation.“History,” after all, has two meanings. It’s not just the sum of past events, but the discipline that studies them. …

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Jerome Bruner  © Poughkeepsie Day School | Flickr
EducationEssaysFeatureScienceThe Psyche

Remembering Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner, the George Herbert Meade Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research from 1981 until 1991, died June 5th at the age of 100. Jerry spent his century engaged in life fully. Not only was he one of the most influential figures in psychology, he was a sailor, a raconteur, and an intellectual, who easily traversed the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences without taking a breath. His passion for the sea was well known. When moving to England, he did not take the conventional route and fly or even sail on the QE II. Rather he sailed his own boat across the Atlantic. And, in his mid-80’s, when asked about whether he still sailed, he frowned, said “Alas, no,” but then smiled: “I have taken up kayaking.”

Besides the New School, Jerry spent his academic life at Harvard, Oxford, and, after his retirement, NYU Law School. Chiefly a developmental psychologist,  …

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