Gordon Wood will be speaking on this topic tomorrow night at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. J.L. Bell offers his own brief take on the question at hand:
The society’s announcement asks, “Was George Santayana correct when he said that ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’?” Or might there be other things to learn from the past? For myself, I’ve concluded that the past, like the present, is too complex for clear lessons, and the most important thing to learn from it is the need to recognize that complexity.
Wood has spoken on this topic before at the Rhode Island Historical Society’s annual meeting last autumn. His talk will probably reflect ideas in his book The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History, a collection of reviews.
Some of you long-time readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home may remember my series I did on The Purpose of the Past in the summer of 2008. You can read it by clicking here and scrolling down until you get to September 10, 2008.
What do you think? Does the past teach lessons?