Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt - 12 - Claims and Evidence

As I’m skipping the chapters supposedly refuting the cases for Bacon, Marlowe, and Oxford, let’s now take a look at chapter 5 – ‘The unusual suspects’. This chapter has other candidates than the above as its focus but it also has a number of arguments worth reviewing.

The claim is made that, unlike the professional scholars, those favoring any alternative candidate to the man from Stratford, don’t follow the standard scientific method of starting with a hypothesis, then analyzing the data, and then making logical conclusions based on that data.

Unlike the professionals, it’s claimed that the amateurs (a loosely used term since some anti-Stratfordians are professional scholars that publish in this field) begin with an unsubstantiated premise and reason from that. Unfortunately for this argument, it’s both unsubstantiated and false.

It’s unsubstantiated because there is no data presented to demonstrate that none of the proposed candidates have data to support an argument for their premise. In fact, the doubters have been pointing out the lack of corroborating authorship data for the Stratfordian model for decades. But that hasn’t stopped the professionals from assuming their premise that William of Stratford was the writer we know as Shakespeare. There is a pittance of data in the previous three chapters that is claimed to refute the cases for three of the candidates but it’s laughable. And as the doubters have been showing, not only is there a lack of proof of the orthodox position’s premise, they can’t account for much of the data put forth by the opposition of the writer Shakespeare’s qualifications. It’s not a reasonable response, say, to the detailed data showing Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy, that the author could get it all from books and by casual listening to travelers with first-hand experience in Italy. Which books contain each piece of the data? Or which Italian travelers did William have extensive talks with about their travels? And how did he have this knowledge by the earliest play that contains it?

There is also the claim that “All of these nominations are equally invalid; none has a greater claim than any of the others.” The citation for this claim is the Shakespeare Bites Back: Not So Anonymous ebook, which had each point answered by Exposing an Industry in Denial

Again, the claim that all alternative candidate nominations are equally invalid is not substantiated with any evidence. But it is an interesting question that some anti-Stratfordians have considered. It would be helpful if further research was done to try and come to greater agreement on what qualities the writer Shakespeare can be said to have had and then to sift out as many candidates as possible.   But that would require greater cordiality on the side of mainstream scholars. And since there’s been no comparison (that I know of) of all evidence of the various candidates it’s just a senseless statement to say that none of them has a better case than any of the others. How is that conclusion following the standard scientific method? In fact, there’s the additional claim that, by the doubter’s standards of research, “Nearly any name of any person living in Shakespeare’s day” can be a candidate. Here we can witness some pure irrationality. Who do they think will be convinced by such a statement?

It’s also said that “.. we should want to look at the theoretical framework of each case. What kind of an argument is being made?  …then we will make clear just how each argument does not stand up to historical fact and/or rationality.” That seems sensible, but you should not only look at each theoretical framework and the ‘kind’ of argument used within it, you should also look at, and try to understand from the other side’s viewpoint, the data and reasoning that go with them. After reading the three cases from the earlier chapters it’s obvious that this wasn’t done. And since the author believes that they are ALL EQUALLY invalid, it should follow that they will never actually, that is seriously, examine any contrary evidence.

A final statement to comment on from this chapter is that “Do we not see this as a severe problem, not just for the study of Shakespeare, but more importantly for the very way that we conduct historical research?” From what we’ve already looked at, when Diana Price argued against the Stratfordian acceptance of posthumous assumptions of William’s authorship, the rest of us do have a concern with how some of the Stratfordian academics are doing some of this historical research. Certainly the doubters have some flawed data and arguments, and the worst of it is getting winnowed out over time, but when the scholarly community appears to have abandoned rational research on such a fascinating question, you can only expect that it will be filled by some with fewer resources. It’s impressive then that the so-called amateurs seem to be outpacing traditional scholars in this area.

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