Do people learn from history?

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Do people learn from history?

  • yes

    Votes: 3 7.9%
  • yes, but the wrong lesson

    Votes: 13 34.2%
  • no

    Votes: 22 57.9%

  • Total voters
    38

Lemmingwise

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I was reading the first page of Quigley's "The evolution of civilizations". I'll share it here:

This book is not a history. Rather it is an attempt to establish analytical tools that will assist the understanding of history. Most historians will regard such an effort as unnecessary or even impossible. Some answer must be made to these two objections.

Those who claim that no analytical tools are needed in order to write history are niave. To them the facts of histroy are relatively few and are simply arranged. The historian's task is merely to find these facts; their arrangement will be obvious. But it should require only a moment's thought to recognize that the facts of the past are infinite, and the possible arrangements of any selection from these facts are equally numerous. Since all the facts cannot be mobilized in any written history because of their great number, there must be some principle on which selection from these facts is based. Such a principle is a tool of historical analysis. Any sophisticated historian should be aware of the principles he uses and should be explicit to his readers about these. After all, any past event even the writing of this book, is a fact of history but most such facts, including this book, do not deserve to be mentioned in the narration of history.


I often hear people say or write that "people don't learn from history" or "people haven't learned from history". I get that it's a pithy phrase, but there seems something very shallow masquerading as deep in that statement (like most OPs here and probably this one included). After all, when people say that statement what they mean is "they didn't conceptualise this event in history exactly as I did, and they didn't identify the exact same solution as I did."

Am I the only one that thinks that often people's perception of history is very flat? That it is very difficult to develop a multi-dimensional view of even a single event, let alone events spanning several years? Yet it seems people are keen to subtract simple lessons from them.

It seems to me that people very much learn from history in the sense that what they perceive happened and the lesson that they perceive should be learned from it, that they try to apply that to themselves and possibly to let's say their voting behaviour. No matter how flawed the analysis, people are keen to not repeat bad history. Whether that can really be called learning, I'm unsure of, I'm not convinced it is much better than reading horoscopes or tealeaves.

Do people learn from history? Do they conceptualise history accurately? Do they take the right lessons from history?
 

Lemmingwise

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history is written by the victors, their perspective is the only one most people will ever be exposed to, so the lessons learned are theirs.
seeing a bigger picture than that requires active research and is very time consuming so almost nobody bothers
Heh, so the lesson to learn from history is that winning war solves all your problems when you're statebuilding.
 

mindlessobserver

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Heh, so the lesson to learn from history is that winning war solves all your problems when you're statebuilding.

Its probably a bit deeper then that. Humans are very cognitive and introspective people. When you say "history is written by the victors", it would probably be more accurate to say "the history that we have accepted is the correct one out of any other possible interpretation. Because we have chosen to accept it as correct". Our ability to tell stories and conceptualize abstract reality as opposed to what is immediately in front of us is very much encoded into our basic survival evolution. Our ancestors could not just survive by hunting the mammoth they came across, they also needed to know where the Mammoth could be at any given time of the year. That requires abstract knowledge of past events in order to explain the preent and potential future. Historical analysis if you will. But it needs to be GOOD analysis. After all, if you travel somewhere and there are no Mammoth, tribe dies.

Taken a step beyond immediate survival, history also help bind human social groups. Why didn't Grock kill Mork with club? Well, first and foremost Grock needs Mork if he wants to hunt Mammoth. Can't do it alone. But what if Mork is really, REALLY annoying? Why put up with the immediate annoyance for some abstract future gain? Because Mork is in Grocks tribe. And what is Grocks Tribe? Why they are all the people of the sacred rock, which they all carry around with tribe and use to cut birthing cord at birth. What is sacred rock? Why its a heavenly fire that sky father threw to earth in front of cave of first tribe chief who made it into knife and used to kill 500 mammoth and grow tribe. We are all since people of sacred rock.

Is this an ACCURATE interpretation of history? Probably not. it is probably more accurate to say the first tribe chieftain found a meteorite and fashioned it into a knife. But it is a true history in the sense that everyone accept it, it binds the tribe together, the tribe can hunt mammoths, and thus survive. Now, what would happen if someone were to come along, tell them the TRUE history (as they saw it mind you, who knows, maybe sky father really did throw rock), and then handed out steel switch blades to everyone? Well pretty soon the tribe may well fall apart as the history that binds them together into a cohesive social group collapses. Incidentally, this happened QUITE FREQUENTLY to tribal groups who encountered more advanced societies, and even to advanced societies when there is a sudden change in something profound like religion.

So the claim that history doesn't offer lessons for the future or present is blatantly false. I would argue its in fact essential to humans at a biological level. And when someone starts tinkering with it, or taking a sledge hammer to it entirely, they do so at their peril. Consider the visceral reaction so many people have at the recent push to rewrite history here in the West.
 

Emperor Julian

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Not genrally no, lessons are pretty difficult to refine. People have a really bad learning curve when it comes to abstracts. The fact their are Russian Nazi's implies that people will somehow manage to refine anti-learning from situations.
I mean considering their are still people who advocate for faith healing after 4000 years of it not working.

history is written by the victors,


Mostly it's written by nerds being paid to discredit each other. The victors litteracy was often dubious at best.
 
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Slap47

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history is written by the victors, their perspective is the only one most people will ever be exposed to, so the lessons learned are theirs.
seeing a bigger picture than that requires active research and is very time consuming so almost nobody bothers

History is written by those who write and those who sponsor who write.
 

Orion Balls

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I was taught that humanity itself faces forward. The past can always be improved upon. So, the reason things seem to happen again and again is because they do. Everyone wants to try to improve upon an ideal that didn't quite work out as anticipated.
 

No Exit

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People don't really learn from history, at the least the people that matter. A lot of it is glorified or modified, not just for the winners but in general. For example, Nazi Germany or communist Russia; most people immediately think of Hitler or Stalin and Lenin. When thinking of Rome they think of Caeser, Justinian etc. It's all mostly figureheads and many of the decisions of the times are almost completely attributed to them or their closest political partners.
Wars are written as just hate for people, religion, or greed and really miss out on the minute details of the time.

I think few people even know how to apply the lessons of history to the modern day. You have tards yelling that Trump is literally Hitler and decrying racism without understanding the complex social issues that Germany had going at the time that lead to the Big H.

So no, people don't learn really from history since a lot of it is obfuscated behind a lot of flashy shit that doesn't matter and can't find the right lessons to learn.
 

Recoil

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I think that the behavior proscribed in certain religious texts is actually lessons learned the hard way from history (don't inbreed, shellfish can be extremely poisonous) that have been repackaged as stories and commandments in order to ensure certain mistakes aren't repeated. So yes, people do learn from history - at least on the grand scale.

There's also the Flynn effect to consider - the average human IQ is increasing over time at a speed that outpaces biological evolution.
 

Lemmingwise

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There's also the Flynn effect to consider - the average human IQ is increasing over time at a speed that outpaces biological evolution
Not only has the Flynn effect reversed, it always related to only a single segment of the about 14-17 segments out of which we measure IQ (depending on IQ measuring method)

Check me on this, I'm reciting this from poor memory of about 5 years ago.
 

TheRedBaron

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sadly we generally don't, history repeats itself more than could be believed, it seems after enough time passes those who remember events die and the next generations misconstrew events into stuff that didn't happen for good or for bad
 

mr.moon1488

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They should but seldom do. It's also kind of odd that they don't when you think about it. History could be best defined as memory which predates the observer's existence. Barring any age-related neural degeneration people do tend to make better decisions as they get older due to memory of past experiences.
 

DJ Grelle

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>wanting to learn from history
fucking r etards

All historiography is a deliberate construction made by the historian. From the selection of sources to the font and lay out of the work, it's rife with conscious, biased choices that impact interpretation.
iirc it was Paul Valery who said you can prove anything with history. Look at studies of the British Raj. You can make a perfectly correct work which tells us the Brits improved the subcontinent. And it would be entirely truthful. You can also write a work how the Brits ruined India. And you would be entirely truthful. You dont even need to use totally different sources. Just simplify this source and focus on that one and voila, a totally different interpretation of facts.

If you truly care about history, you should read Nietzsches essay on the use and abuse of history for life
If you care more about life than about history you should become an italian futurist and molotov your nearest museum

And I say this as an academically-trained historian
 

Lemmingwise

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I was taught that humanity itself faces forward. The past can always be improved upon. So, the reason things seem to happen again and again is because they do. Everyone wants to try to improve upon an ideal that didn't quite work out as anticipated.
I've always liked the expression "we're walking into the future backwards"

If you truly care about history, you should read Nietzsches essay on the use and abuse of history for life

It's going on the reading list. Thank you.