Saturday, June 12, 2004


Perspectives on the Past

Mark Pattison, Memoirs of an Oxford Don (1885; rpt. London, 1988), pp. 50-51:
A man who does not know what has been thought by those who have gone before him is sure to set an undue value upon his own ideas -- ideas which have perhaps been tried and found wanting.
Hugh Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 156:
One of the best reasons for studying the past is to protect oneself against that insularity in time which restricts the uneducated and those who write to please them. The ordinary man feels superior to the men of ages past, whose technology was inferior to what he is used to and whose ethical and political beliefs were not those which he has been taught to consider as the right ones. When he condescends to pay any attention to the past, he looks at once for a resemblance to the present. If he believes that he has found any he may be willing to concede to the past some measure of patronising tolerance; but if he can find none, he will dismiss it with impatience. The educated man, however, will observe with interest both the resemblances and the differences between past and present.

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