The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first citation for presentism in its historiographic sense from 1916, and the word may have been in use in this meaning as early as the 1870s. Historian David Hackett Fischer identifies presentism as a logical fallacy also known as the "fallacy of nunc pro tunc". He has written that the "classic example" of presentism was the so-called "Whig history", in which certain eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British historians wrote history in a way that used the past to validate their own political beliefs. This interpretation was presentist because it did not depict the past in objective historical context, but instead viewed history only through the lens of contemporary Whig beliefs. In this kind of approach, which emphasizes the relevance of history to the present, things which do not seem relevant receive little attention, resulting in a misleading portrayal of the past. "Whig history" or "whiggishness" are often used as synonyms for presentism, particularly when the historical depiction in question is teleological or triumphalist.
Presentism is also related to the problematic question of history and moral judgments. Among historians, the orthodox view may be that reading modern notions of morality into the past is to commit the error of presentism. To avoid this, some historians restrict themselves to describing what happened, and attempt to refrain from using language that passes judgment. For example, when writing history about slavery in an era when the practice was widely accepted, some believe that using language that condemns slavery as "wrong" or "evil" would be presentist, and should be avoided.
There are many critics of this application of presentism. Some argue that to avoid moral judgments is to practice moral relativism, a controversial idea. Some religious historians argue that morality is timeless, having been established by God, and therefore it is not anachronistic to apply timeless standards to the past. (In this view, while mores may change, morality does not.) Others argue that historians, like all humans, cannot truly be objective, and so moral judgments will always be a part of their work. David Hackett Fischer, for his part, writes that historians cannot avoid making moral judgments, and indeed they ought to make them, but that they should be aware of their biases, and write history in such a way that their biases do not create a distorted depiction of the past.
Masters and Johnson's sex research and sex therapy program: a critical appraisal from down under.('Sex Research and Sex Therapy: A Sociological Analysis of Masters and Johnson')(Book review)
Sep 01, 2009; Sex Research and Sex Therapy." A Sociological Analysis of Masters and Johnson. By Ross Morrow. New York: Routledge, 2008, 212...