Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why is history important?

I am a scientist but I think the humanities, and especially history, are just as important. It is disappointing how (due to the rise of postmodernism and economic rationalism) that they are less of a priority in universities, both to students and to administrators.

I recently came across an address that C.S. Lewis gave to Oxford undergraduates during World War II. Part of it is:
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.
Most of all, perhaps we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many place is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune form the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.
The complete address is available here.