Why Study Philosophy or History?

BY ROBERT F. BEAUDINE

Let’s Make Our Culture Great Again! – Lesson 1

Have you ever read a philosophy book or one of the classics of literature that was hard to follow? Were you forced to read one in school? Did you ever read one during your leisure time for personal enrichment? Did you ever wonder why you were reading a book that provided no enjoyment or enrichment?

I have. Quite often. I once ripped a book in half and kicked it across the floor. It was during my third reading. I never got past the first few chapters and finally banished it from my library. There’s a lot of authors I won’t read, because they are full of malarkey.

Thankfully, philosophy is not always tedious. There are ancient debates to explore that were never won, and old conundrums to discover that were never solved.

For example, there’s a story about an ancient court case in Greece involving Protagoras, which was kept alive by the Greek philosopher, Plato, and sundry others.

Protagoras was a philosopher and an expert on the law. According to Plato, he was the first Sophist, which was a pedagogical movement that began in Greece in the 5th Century BC. The Sophists pioneered the concept of a professional tutor. These tutors covered a wide range of subjects, but those who taught the art of rhetoric and the law were quite popular. There was a large demand from the rising generation of nobles to learn public speaking skills and the intricacies of their laws.

Protagoras became the most famous philosopher and tutor during his time. He traveled throughout Greece and amassed a fortune. Protagoras was so confident in his knowledge and his teaching ability that he offered to waive his fee to a student named Eulathus, that is, if Eulathus didn’t win his first court case.

Eulathus accepted the proposal. However, when he finished his tutoring, Eulathus changed his mind and pursued a career in politics instead of the law. At some point, Protagoras realized that Eulathus had no plans to ever go to court and was under no legal obligation to pay his fee, because he hadn’t won his first court case.

So Protagoras filed a lawsuit to force Eulathus’ first court case and recover his fee. He figured if he won, the verdict would guarantee the payment. If he lost, Eulathus would have won his first case and owe him his fee under their contract.

Eulathus was just as confident of victory. If he won the case, the verdict would dismiss the fee. And if he lost his first court case, the loss would nullify the fee.

The ancient Greek court couldn’t figure out this conundrum and postponed their decision for a hundred years. We are still awaiting a verdict.

Philosophy is not always dry and boring. It teaches valuable concepts and promotes rational thinking. Philosophy stretches the mind, but sometimes it is baffling.

History is another matter and should be studied by everyone who can read. It is not something to be dabbled in or ignored. It is a vital subject of study that not only sheds light on the modern day, it is indispensable to have any understanding of the world today.

You see, we are all thrust upon the world stage, but most of us assume our roles without any questions. They don’t question the props they see and care little about previous events. They take all our institutions and traditions and everything else for granted.

Yet, this world stage has been ongoing for thousands of years. Those who take their part without knowing all the previous acts are like those arriving late in a play. Those who do not know the beginning cannot comprehend the current act or anticipate the next chain of events.

Naturally, those who arrive late for a show know they are missing vital information, but those who arrive on the stage of life are unaware they are missing vital information, and they are unaware that they are unaware.

History must be studied in its entirety to fully understand the current act. You must study the whole picture first before you can analyze its parts and fill in the details. History also cannot be studied in a vacuum. It is impossible to understand the history of any particular nation, without studying the histories of the bordering nations or the trading nations from afar that influenced that nation.

It is impossible to understand the birth of our nation, without understanding Europe’s Enlightenment, which stimulated the debates and speeches of our founders and ultimately inspired their actions. It is impossible to understand the Enlightenment without any understanding of the previous age called the Renaissance, which resurrected the classics of ancient thought in Greece and Rome, and opened the door to the Enlightenment. And it is impossible to understand the Renaissance without understanding its prior history, and so forth.

The task is both extraordinary and necessary, because history puts everything in its proper perspective. Everything – all our traditions and institutions, our educational system, our modern media, our amusements, even the words we speak – has a history that broadens your understanding.

It is impossible to understand any end product without knowing its beginning and its evolution over time. You must first study how its foundation was built and learn the fundamentals used in its construction. Only then will you be able to compare today’s end products with their original conception.

You have to develop a long timeline in your memory, to organize your memory and create the framework to store information gleaned from your historical studies, which must be organized by date to facilitate later retrieval.

For those who would rather skip the study of history, consider this question: Why did the ancient Israelites become the first nation to record their history? They did it for their posterity, but why?

They did it for the instruction of future generations to preserve their unique traditions and institutions, and to preserve their unique identity. 

Can a nation lose its original identity when its history is forgotten? Can its identity be changed when its history is falsified?

In America, our history is neglected, distorted, and terribly taught. Many Americans consider it useless in a modern age of technology. What can primitive people teach us, they ask?

Others have studied American history, including the founding of our nation but neglected the larger picture and know little about the histories of the other great powers. So, they lack perspective, and they lack a means of comparison.

Many citizen journalists in the “truth movement” have studied 20th Century American history and believe that most of our problems began in the 20th Century. My studies reveal that most of our problems began in the 19th Century.

Many problems, including those of our educational, economical, and political institutions, began in the first half of the 19th Century, but a major problem began much later in 1884, when the American Historical Association was founded. Its first president, Andrew Dickson White, was a member of Yale’s secret society called Skull and Bones, the Brotherhood of Death. He knew if you changed America’s history, you would change America’s identity and ultimately change its culture and its destiny.

He also helped radically change the direction of American higher education, but that’s an untold story for another day.

By the turn of the 20th Century, history was captured, and psychology was beginning its tyranny over academia. During the early 20th Century, education and the news business were captured by powerful business and banking interests to shape public opinion and prevent the masses from discovering the truth. The 20th Century reveals a steady decline in American culture, but our decline began in the 19th Century.

History puts the modern world and all its multi-faceted components in perspective and provides a means of comparison. It teaches timeless lessons on human behavior. It teaches fundamental truths and universal facts of life.

Yet, today’s histories are more often misleading and teach false lessons and false principles, because history was hijacked long ago by unscrupulous scholars and rewritten, which prevents a real understanding of the present day and perverts our unique identity.

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Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Robert F. Beaudine thinks deeply, researches thoroughly, and writes persuasively on political philosophy, history, public education, the national debt, the myth of global warming and numerous other subjects. A published novelist as well, Robert Beaudine resides in Greenville, South Carolina. Robert F. Beaudine archives


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