Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Mon Mar 8 00:40:37 PST 1999

Haven't read the original texts in the debate between Sahlins and Obeysekere about whether the Hawaiians mistook Captain Cook for their god Lono (?). But in the reviews I did read of the debate--IC Jarvie's in The Philosophy of Social Science and Keith Windschuttle's in his book about how literary critics are murdering history--Sahlins doesn't seem to have come out the clear winner.

"MS asks why, if Ob's argument is that the natives should have been able to determine from self-evident sensory perception that Captain Cook was "human, just like them," then why stop there? Hawaiians view many "natural" things, including foods which they themselves produce and consume, as containing the spirit of various gods. How, with eyes and stomachs, could Hawaiians possibly have believe that? (And how is this different from belief in transubstantiation, which sense-endowed Europeans believe in, even though they can see the bread and wine right in front of them? etc.)"

Is this Obeysekere's argument for why the native Hawaiians did not consider Cook to be Lono or is this Sahlin's construction of his argument? Would Obeysekere accept it?

yours, rakesh

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