Napoleon Bornaparte

Topics: Scientific method, Theory, Explanation Pages: 1 (308 words) Published: May 27, 2013
I find Professor Parker's essay very helpful and illuminating. Napo- leon's decision to invade Russia against the almost unanimous advice of his closest counsellors presents an intriguing and important puzzle to which Parker provides a persuasive psychological explanation. Finding much in the essay to agree with and little to criticize nor- mally poses a problem for a commentator, but Professor Parker has invited me to range freely in my comments. I will take advantage of this freedom to propose not a different causal explanation of Napoleon's decision, but instead a different characterization and understanding of Napoleon's foreign policy in the context of the international system. My text, or pretext, comes from one of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown detective stories. In it, Father Brown, asked whether he did not accept the science of criminology, replies that he would gladly accept the science of criminology if his interlocutor would accept the science of hagiology. I take Chesterton's point to be that hagiology and crimi- nology concern themselves with two poles in the range of human con- duct, both of which require more in the way of explanation than does that of the ordinary sinner. Both saintly and criminal behavior can to a degree be explained, or at least dealt with, in a "scientific" or scholarly manner, i.e., regarded as phenomena on which empirical data can be gathered and theories and generalizations developed and tested. Whether or not one attempts so to explain criminality and saintliness, however, *'The original version of this essay originated as comments on the preceding paper by Harold T. Parker presented in a session of the Bicentennial Meeting of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 28-30 September 1989, and that version appeared in the Bicentennial Proceedings published by the Florida State University Press (1990).

The Journal of Military History 54(April 1990): 147-61 ') Americ
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