The Captain Cook Debate Analysis

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The Captain Cook Debate - Sahlins and Obeyesekere What an interesting debate! What really happened between the Hawaiians and Captain Cook? What is the significance of that event for our understanding of culture and human rationality? Who can speak for a people? I will attempt to shed some light on these questions, using the writings this week of Sahlins, Obeyesekere and Borofsky. I feel the most important question of the three is who can speak for a people, in this case, the Hawaiian people. In this week’s reading, How “Natives” Think, Marshall Sahlins is focused on the question of whether the Hawaiian people were “victims of magical thinking and their own traditions” (p. 1) when they perceived Captain Cook “as a manifestation of their returning year-god Lono” (p. 1). Historians tell us that white men were often viewed as superior beings and this view not only includes Cook, but Cortes as well. On the other hand, Gananath Obeyesekere’s writing, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook, is essentially an attack on Sahlins work and he makes the suggestion that the Hawaiian people deified Cook only after killing him. My understanding of Obeyesekere’s…show more content…
It is, rather, to what degree we (and others) can converse across our differences, whatever they are, however deep they go” (p. 264). Borofsky emphasizes what is needed is for us to build on ‘common points of reference’. He argues that in this debate between Obeyesekere and Sahlins we should focus on “three critical points” (p. 264). The first of these three points is for the argument to be consistent, then we must compare the assumptions within other writings regarding the issue, and finally, we need to agree on events that are accepted as actual
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