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THE VALUE OF HISTORY There would seem to be at least three possible viewpoints of the value of history Clearly such a statement calls for the qualification that the positions represented by these viewpoints are unlikely to be sharply demarcated but will generally merge into one another The first is the view that history is bunk often positively harmful and that we should have as little to do with it as we can manage Such an opinion would fit a strong belief that all that matters is the future that preoccupation with the past can only hold us back and indeed that lessons learned from the past are highly likely to be wrong and to lead us on to worse mistakes in the future Support of a sort for these opinions may be sought from Hegels comment that people and governments have never learned from history although any further investigation of Hegel will result in that support drying up rapidly since his whole philosophical position puts history into a pre-eminent position Holders of this negative view of the value of history may among other things point to the disasters arising from the tendency among army generals to attempt to re-fight the battles of earlier wars while ignoring the opportunities and dangers presented by subsequent advances in technology Others who might find themselves in this camp are those with a particularly strong conviction of the impossibility of disentangling historical truth from propaganda or at least from the views and prejudices of those who write history a subject discussed in detail in the first essay on objectivity There are many incontestable truths in these views and they should certainly inform any position that might be held on the value of history but to hold them exclusively seems indicative of a certain poverty of overall outlook Perhaps the real value of this position is that it obliges those who do not hold it constantly to
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