History

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History

fschmidt
Administrator
The biggest problem with history is history books.  They are horrible.  They record a series of uninteresting and meaningless facts like who was the leader when, and when did this or that battle take place.  None of this has any value other than perhaps to help one fall asleep.

Edmund Burke said "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.".  But how does knowing what is taught in history books help prevent repeating mistakes?  Obviously it doesn't.  The real lessons from history can only be learned from what is left out of history books, namely how was the culture, the religion, the morals, the behavior, and the laws of the past.  And the only place to find this information today is from original sources.  I know of very few recent attempts to record any of this, the only one that comes to mind is Daily Life In Ancient Rome (1940) which still has little value because it fails to describe the significant changes that took place over Roman history.

The reason that history is so important can be found in my post Reason and Validation.  The data that must be used to validate moral principles can only come from history.  The exact process of validation is another topic, but the process is irrelevant if the data isn't available.  Just making this information widely available would have huge value.

The Old Testament is probably the only book that makes a serious attempt to record what is relevant in history.  It records the initial laws a successful culture in the Torah and then goes on to describe the history of this culture, how it rose based on adherence to the Torah, and then fell as the culture became corrupt.  All this was recorded in the Old Testament so that Jews would forever have a resource for learning the lessons of their history.  What is needed today is something like the Old Testament, but on a global scale covering all successful cultures in history and describing what they were like when they rose and what they were like when they fell.  Clearly those elements common to rising culture should be considered good and those elements common to falling cultures should be considered bad.  Such a book could, in effect, serve as a universal Bible of reason.

How could such a book be produced?  Luckily we have the technology that I think makes this possible, which is the wiki.  The wiki enables many contributors to combine effort to produce a large objective resource.  (To a certain extent, I think the Old Testament was the first wiki since it was the result of contributions and edits from many people, much like wikis are.)  The rule for such a wiki would be avoid including specific information of no general value.  This includes all the stuff found in history books like people's names, politics, and battles.  Instead of saying "battle X occurred on date Y" one would say that "country X won battles and increased their territory on date Y".  The significance of the latter statement is as an indication of the strength of country X.  There is virtually no reason to ever mention a person's name in such a history.  All facts should be properly referenced, preferably to original sources, just as in any wiki.  Creating such a wiki would be the first step towards validating morality, and so it would be the first step to reconciling reason and morality.
Following the Old Testament, not evil modern culture
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Re: History

Meyer
I agree with your interpretation and summary of the Old Testament, but I would not hold it up as a model of how to include only relevant and significant facts in a history book.  The OT has an absolutely mind-numbing amount of data and names and descriptions of rituals and so forth that have no relevance whatsoever to the main issues, such that it takes a tremendous effort to read through and extract the important stuff.  Have you re-read the books of Leviticus and Numbers lately?

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Re: History

fschmidt
Administrator
I agree that the Old Testament has a lot of irrelevant stuff.  But my point is that, unlike modern history books, it includes what is relevant.  Modern history books only include what is irrelevant and exclude all that is relevant.  My idea for the wiki project would be to focus on what is relevant.
Following the Old Testament, not evil modern culture
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Re: History

Meyer
I would think de Tocqueville would be a good source for describing a society on the rise, and the ingredients of a successful culture.  Namely, minimal government combined with a firm sense of justice, work ethic, and traditional gender roles.
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Re: History

Scorpius
In reply to this post by fschmidt
I think a good place to start would be books that describe the family life of a given civilization over time. Most will not focus specifically on morality, but I believe a decent picture can be constructed with enough sources.
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Re: History

fschmidt
Administrator
History books of any kind are okay to start with, but one must then use references there to look up primary sources.  A serious history wiki must refer directly to primary sources.

I haven't followed up on this wiki idea because there doesn't seem to be much interest and I have other things going on.  But if anyone is interested, let me know and maybe we can set something up.
Following the Old Testament, not evil modern culture