I've written often here of "parallel universes"; manifested frequently in historical perspectives and their influence on our lives. John Howard at the American Thinker has taken that notion and written an extremely insightful piece about the root of these competing perspectives. Howard uses the competing perspectives of Plato and Aristotle to illustrate. These competing viewpoints have been manifested in other historical figures as well - Marx and Burke for example (actually, I think it goes even deeper, back to the Garden of Eden, but that's for another post), but Howard's essay provides ample fodder for reflection and discussion.
One of the things that has continued to amaze me is how historians who seem to be mostly influenced by Plato's (and a statist/Marxist) philosophy, can ignore the overwhelming mountain of evidence within their own discipline that contradicts their own analysis and perspective. I refer often to this 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama for the Presidency as a textbook example.
Despite mountains of empirical historical evidence that socialist/Marxist societies do not and can not work, these academic historians publicly endorsed a Marxist for president of the United States and parroted much of his utopian nonsense. It is absolutely amazing to observe. Howard points out how many modern historians and others fail to recognize and learn anything from history:
Not surprisingly, Plato's system has never, in the history of mankind, existed. It is not, mind you, for lack of trying. The highways of history are littered with the corpses of failed utopian experiments. It is just that the limits of logic uninformed by experience are too profound to allow for the forced creation of an ideal society when it is made up of individuals. Man is too mutable, the options too varied. But Plato's progeny have, through the millennia, adopted his premises in a direct line of thought from Plato to Augustine to Descartes to Leibnitz to Kant to Hegel to Marx to modern liberalism. Each accepted as its premises, first, that the truth was knowable and should be derived by logic . . .
This is something I've pointed out here before. If you read many of the history blogs which often offer perspectives on history as it relates to modern society and public policy, you will quickly observe that their analysis is rarely based on logic, but rather emotion. Read the above referenced presidential endorsement for an example of emotion winning out over logic. Moreover, their narcissism requires they be hyper-critical of past generations and turn that into a morality play with themselves being the stars of their own production. In doing so, they easily stumble into the trap Howard alludes to in the next paragraph:
Liberalism defines its ideal society without reference to what has gone before -- by the application of logic to abstraction ungrounded in historical experience. That ideal is the equality of all -- something demonstrably unachievable, given variations in man. Liberalism holds that society can and should be shaped by an activist government. Its concept is that the individual can flourish when the ideal society is established -- i.e., one that will free him from the constraints imposed by a primitive state of free competition. Its goal is an articulated ideal in which individual struggle is minimized and social stratification collapsed into equality of result. That no such society has ever existed appears to be a matter of indifference.
Beyond the entertainment factor, history is pointless unless we learn something from it - something many moderns simply refuse to do. You can read the complete article here. I highly recommend it.
*My post on Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and academia will be coming up next.