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Martin Mulsow – Helmholtz Lecture – Global Intellectual History

July 4th, 2012 · No Comments

Martin Mulsow
Helmholtz Lectures
reviewed by Gary Levinson

Martin Mulsow in his Helmholtz lecture “Ideengeschichte als Verflectungs- geschichte. Impluse für eine Global Intellectual History” at the Humboldt University in Berlin on Thursday, the 31st of May 2012, gave us an interesting introductory lecture into this discipline.  His basic premise is that because the History of Ideas is an essentially two-dimensional story, tending to show that an idea can be traced in a straight line back to some original source, we need a new three-dimensional field of study.  Global Intellectual History is such a field, and in his lecture he showed that ideas can not only be traced vertically along a time scale, but also horizontally, through different cultures, around the world.  This gives us the global in global intellectual history, and adds the third dimension.

He used the example of Moses, and explained how all ideas have a cultural history (in this example, the Moses who lead the Jews out of Egypt, receiver of the laws, etc.) and a real history (did Moses even exist?  If so, what was the actual story?).  He went on to show how a leading, unifying figure had been a common theme throughtout Near-Eastern cultural history, being for its part based on an earlier Mesopotamian cultural reference, which in turn came from Asia.

To facilitate the research in this field, he suggested conventions wherein only pairs of researchers (each from a different culture) would be allowed, and that these pairs could present their combined research before peers.  He allowed as to how this pairing would be difficult to achieve, since each researcher guards his own ideas like a mother goose guarding its golden egg.

All in all a worthwhile lecture, showing us that it really is a small (and interconnected) world, after all…..

review by Gary Levinson
review Copyright Levinson 2012