The meaning of 'inquiry' relating to Herodotus & contemporary culture
on Herodotus by A.P. David has interested me in the parallels between contemporary culture and Herodotus as “an inquirer” and his accounts as an “inquiry”. In the article “Travel Writing as History”, David explains that we should not consider Herodotus as an informant but as “an inquirer into the ever-present human condition”. He develops this idea by showing how according to two senses of the word ‘history’—firstly, the sense involved in such phrases as making history, history will show
, or the end of history
, and secondly, the sense of history as a discipline—Herodotus does not qualify as a historian, but merely a story-teller.
However, David reveals that Herodotus does relate to an understanding of the Greek word historia
, which is unlike either of the previous two senses of ‘history’: “historia
and this is the spirit of Herodotus' publication. He is a seeker, and one might as well adopt his attitude as naively as one can, in order to see the world and its workings afresh”.
Considering Herodotus as “an inquirer” into the human condition rather than as an informant has led me to consider contemporary uses of inquiry vs. informant; in particular, the Iraq Inquiry. In my opinion, both ‘inquiries’ are comparable.
The Iraq Inquiry is criticized for assessing information with the bias of its committee’s interests: like Herodotus’ accounts of Egypt, the conclusions reached by the Iraq Inquiry present a subjective view. Both examples demonstrate the confusion between an informant and an inquirer, as both cases can be criticized for presenting skewed information as solid evidence. Moreover, similar to how Herodotus has been challenged as “the king of lies” rather than the “king of history”, the Iraq inquiry has been challenged as a farce and a collection of lies that serve the ends of its creators.