not an object set before us for scientific examination

It is difficult to evaluate the judgments of a past historical period, because we are not “at home” in it to assess its possibilities realistically. But is it any easier to evaluate the judgments of our own? Is it given to us to know our own society more clearly than a past one? Our society is not an object set before us for scientific examination. It is a historical, shifting and changing context, constantly emerging out of a past society and constantly developing into a future one. It is of infinite complexity, and we who assess it are part of it, and assess it from a partial point of view. We may sometimes suspect that there is no more misleading view of a society than the one it takes of itself, a blend of hopeful and despairing self-images, sectional perceptions, and so on.

The Ways of Judgment (Bampton Lectures) by Oliver O’Donovan, page 22.