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Examining a Philosophy of History

Examining a Philosophy of History

That history contains errors, will not come as news to a person who has reflected on the topic. The very first history, a Greek one, History of Herodotus, written around 450 BC, likely had quite a number of fictional details so as to effect its purpose.1 Those parts of our history which are suspected to be fiction are, at least, through research and comparison, salvageable. What, however, is possibly more disturbing than the realization that, in general and throughout, our history is wrong (a sub-topic which I shall treat to a greater extent further on, herein) is the realization that there are great gaps in it. We have failed to record and gather together the little human events which make up the fabric of history: it is little events, strung together and accumulated over time, which account for our place in history.

Though it may have been, in certain of its parts, reconstructed incorrectly and small shards are missing here and there, history, by a well-read and descriptive author, like a Grecian urn, is a spectacle to behold; like man himself -- fascinating, seductive, intriguing, and spectacular. It maybe, that I, like most, enjoy looking in on, at a safe distance, the follies and misfortunes2 of his fellow man, a method to gratify the natural curiosity that most of us have about such things. History, written in a lively and descriptive manner as the best are, so to grip and hold the reader, have, veiled and concealed as it might be, a lesson or moral such that the reader might modify his view of the present and his forecast of the future. This, incidentally, is the principal reason that history ought to be at the core of any scheme of education. In this light, as John Morley observed, the actual twists and turns of the great historical happenings are not so important in themselves, "except as it enables me to see my way more clearly through what is happening to-day."



While its primary allure is like that of gossip, history is important because it is the story of the collective self, the story of passionate man. Fiction, coming as it does from the imagination of some fellow human being, does not have the same attraction, at least, not for me, simply because it is not true. What I need from my reading is to learn something, and...

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