Bertrand Russell and the ‘utility’ of history

History is read, viewed, and even dismissed for a variety of reasons; all of which would be too cumbersome to analyze in brevity. However, I offer up to you the words of Philosopher Bertrand Russell, who suggests quite succinctly, “History is valuable, to begin with, because it is true; and this, though not the whole of its value, is the foundation and condition of all the rest…”

Today’s blog reflects on the “utility” of history; a term coined by Russell… (The term ‘utility” I find most fascinating; for it is not often exercised in regards to the study of history.) So, in the words of Mr. Russell, let us begin…

PH00873 “ … Another and a greater utility, however, belongs also to history. It enlarges the imagination, and suggests possibilities of action and feeling which would not have occurred to an uninstructed mind. It selects from past lives the elements which were significant and important; it fills our thoughts with splendid examples, and with the desire for greater ends than unaided reflection would have discovered. It makes visible and living the growth and greatness of nations, enabling us to extend our hopes beyond the span of our own lives. In all these ways, a knowledge of history is capable of giving statesmanship, and to our daily thoughts, a breadth and scope unattainable by those whose view is limited to the present…”

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