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WHY SHOULD HISTORY, INCLUDING THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, MATTER TO AVERAGE PEOPLE TODAY?

If a society's people don't know their own history or that or other nations, how could that affect the decisions they make, such as in government (including voting) or business?  What are the dangers of "cultural amnesia"? What values are we to choose?  How should we think about choosing values?  To learn about history and the humanities should help us to think more systematically about what the purpose of life should be.  The purpose of philosophy is to consider how knowledge is gained and what the ultimate structure of reality is, including the basis of morality (ethics).  Professional specialization has its dangers, as C.P. Snow warned in his book about the differences between scientists and historians/humanists, "The Two Cultures" 1959. Someone may be wise and intelligent in one area of life, such as at work, but unwise in others.  He or she may be successful on job, yet still be a failure with family life, in dealing with the government, or others in the community.  This is why general education exists for people wanting four-year degrees, since it helps to prevent students from casually falling into narrow specializations.

Consider and ponder these quotes when thinking about whether it's worth knowing about history, the humanities, and philosophy:  "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness . . . Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it," George Santayana (1863-1953)  "The unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates (469-399 b.c.)   "What experience and history teach is this--that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it," G.W.F. Hegel, (1770-1831).   “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see," Winston Churchill (1874-1965).

When people are distracted by the daily grind and struggles of going to work, taking care of their kids, watching TV, playing games, rushing home, etc., could they missing out on what really matters in life?  Consider the error that Albert Speer, Nazi armaments minister under Hitler, Inside the Third Reich, admitted concerning his own life:  "Moreover, the intensity with which I went at my work repressed problems that I ought to have faced.  A good many perplexities were smothered by the daily rush.  In writing these memoirs I became increasingly astonished to realized that before 1944 I so rarely--in fact almost never--found the time to reflect about myself or my own activities, that I never gave my own existence a thought.  Today, in retrospect, I often have the feeling that something swooped me up off the ground at the time, wrenched me from all my roots, and beamed a host of alien forces upon me."  Could we be making the same mistakes on a smaller scale in our own lives?  Shouldn't we sometimes slow down, take a break from the buzz and bumble of life, and think about what the purpose and meaning of our lives are?  God reveals through the Bible what the ultimate answers are, but first we must admit let's admit there's a need to think about the big questions in life.

Specific controversies and documents:

Did Hitler want to conquer the world?  Did he want to attack Russia to get land for the German People?  Or would he have been content just getting back some areas where Germans already lived?  Pat Buchanan, in his book “Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War”:  How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World" makes the general case that America and Britain should have stood aside, and then let Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia mutually destroy each other.  He also has argued that Hitler had little interest in taking over whole countries with large numbers of non-Germans living in them.  Buchanan's ideas are by no means novel, since the British historian A.J.P. Taylor interpreted Hitler's motives in regards to Poland similarly. But as I argue in this essay, William Shirer's book "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" refutes Buchanan's alternative hypothetical history.  This American journalist who worked for the Chicago Tribune and later the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in Germany during the 1930's quoted extensively from secret documents that reveal Hitler's real goals and plans for war.

Buchanan WWII Critique.htm

 Buchanan WWII Critique.doc

 Buchanan WWII Critique.pdf

 

Who was better off on average in 1830?  A black slave living in the American South or an English farmworker?  Who had the higher standard of living?  Who had the better quality of life?  How did the sexual division of labor affect both groups?  How did the respective ruling classes keep control of the slaves and farmworkers?  How did the slaves and farmworkers resist their respective masters?  While citing many primary and secondary historical sources, this document carefully compares and contrasts these two groups while describing the way they lived and worked on an everyday basis.  Part of the original form of this document (roughly the first fourth) was accepted as an M.A. thesis in history at Michigan State University in 1997.  This kind of history writing shows how falsely Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" portrays the slaves' conditions while it  romanticizes nostalgically the antebellum South.

Were American Slaves or English Farmworkers Better Off?  .htm

Were American Slaves or English Farmworkers Better Off?  .doc

Were American Slaves or English Farmworkers Better Off?  .wpd

Were American Slaves or English Farmworkers Better Off?   .rtf

Were American Slaves or English Farmworkers Better Off?  .pdf

 

Why did the Southern states secede from the Union in 1860-61?  Did they merely want a more decentralized form of government?  Or were their arguments against the Federal government's powers merely a respectable fig leaf placed over their desires to keep the black man down?  Read this essay to find out more about this subject:

Why Did the South Oppose Federal Power Historically?  .htm

Why Did the South Oppose Federal Power Historically?   .doc

Why Did the South Oppose Federal Power Historically?  .pdf

 

GENERAL HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS AND REVIEWS

I wrote most of these essays and reviews while I was a grad student in history or a philosophy major at Michigan State University.   They may help others doing research in a similar area (i.e., European labor history).  Only a scanned pdf version for these documents is available.  

Essays dealing with philosophy:

Analytic Synthetic Dichotomy of Kant Critiqued  .pdf

 Aristotle's Theory of Teleology Is Useful  .pdf

 Augustine and Aquinas:   Philosophers on Reason and Faith  .pdf

The Ontological Argument for God's Existence Refuted  .pdf

Essays dealing with history:

The Arrow War 1856-1860, China vs. Britain Was Needless  .pdf

Belgium's Early Industrialization and Its Effects on Workers  .pdf

Carlo Ginzburg  "The Cheese and the Worms"  Reviewed.pdf

Christianity's Role in Creating American and British Nationalism  .pdf

Decline Then Rise:  The Standard of Living Debate, England 1730-1850  .pdf

E.P. Thompson "The Making of English Working Class"  Reviewed  .pdf

German Workers Conditions Labor History Kaiserreich pre-1919  .pdf

Hampson and Cassirer on the Enlightenment  Reviewed.pdf

Ideological Reasons for West's Rise Historically  .pdf

J. D. Chambers  "Workshop of World"  Reviewed  .pdf

Jacques Ranciere "Nights of Labor"  Reviewed  .pdf

Kenneth Stampp  "Peculiar Institution"  Reviewed  .pdf

Lynn Hunt  Politics Culture Class French Revolution  Reviewed  .pdf

MacPherson on Locke's Political Philosophy Critiqued  .pdf

New Cultural History  Foucault  Reviewed  .pdf

Religious Solution to Alienation:  Early 19th Cent US literature Analyzed  .pdf

Emile Guillaumin  "The Life of a Simple Man"  Reviewed  .pdf

Richard Trexler  "Public Life in Renaissance Florence"  Reviewed  .pdf

Soboul  "Sans Culottes"  E P Thompson "Crowd"  Reviewed.pdf

Tocqueville  "Recollections"  Reviewed  .pdf

William Doyle  "Origins of French Revolution"  Reviewed  .pdf

World War I  British French War Aims  1916 1918  .pdf

 

LECTURE NOTES AND OVERHEADS FOR WESTERN CIVILIZATION CLASSES:

Below is a set of lecture notes and overheads created for Western Civilization/Humanities classes that I used to teach at Detroit College of Business/Davenport University in the general period of 2000 to 2005.  Some instructors and lecturers on this subject may still find them of value in organizing their presentations.  The "lecture notes" would help me present the material shown to the class using an overhead projector, which are called "overhead(s)" below in the file names.  Often in the overheads (i.e., outlines for note taking by the class) I used what the educational psychologist Ausubel would call "advance organizers" in order to help the class retain and remember the material for the lecture better.  I then would often base the essay questions on the tests at least in part on these advanced organizers.

Overheads (note taking outlines) would be shown to the class being taught.

Why Do History & Humanities Matter?  Intro  overheads.htm

Why Do History & Humanities Matter?  Intro   overheads.doc

Ancient Mesopotomia  overheads.htm

Ancient Mesopotomia  overheads.doc

Ancient Egypt  overheads.htm

Ancient Egypt  overheads.doc

Greek Classical Culture  overheads.htm

Greek Classical Culture  overheads.doc

Greek Classical Philosophy  overheads.htm

Greek Classical Philosophy  overheads.doc

Greek History Peloponnesian War Aristophanes  overhead.htm

Greek History Peloponnesian War Aristophanes  overhead.doc

Rome vs Greek Culture  Roman Republic  overheads.htm

Rome vs Greek Culture Roman Republic  overheads.doc

Roman Pagan Religion  overhead.htm

Roman Pagan Religion  overhead.doc

Roman Philosophy  overheads.htm

Roman Philosophy  overheads.doc

Rome's Fall  overhead.htm

Rome's Fall  overhead.doc

Classical Art  overheads.htm

Classical Art  overheads.doc

Early Judaism  overheads.htm

Early Judaism  overheads.doc

Early Christianity  overheads.htm

Early Christianity  overheads.doc

Medieval Cultural Synthesis  overheads.htm

Medieval Cultural Synthesis  overheads.doc

Medieval Art Architecture  overheads.htm

Medieval Art Architecture  overheads.doc

Early Islam  overheads.htm

Early Islam  overheads.doc

Renaissance Art  overheads.htm

Renaissance Art  overheads.doc

Reformation and Counter-Reformation  overhead .htm

Reformation and Counter-Reformation  overhead.doc

Scientific Revolution Modern Philosophy  overheads.htm

Scientific Revolution Modern Philosophy  overheads.doc

 

Lecture notes for the instructor (i.e., me) that correspond to the overheads (i.e., note taking outlines for the class) above are listed below:

Mesopotamia  Ancient Egypt  lecture notes.htm

Mesopotamia Ancient Egypt  lecture notes.doc

Ancient Greek Culture Civilization  lecture notes.htm

Ancient Greek Culture Civilization  lecture notes.doc

Ancient Greek Culture Theatre  lecture notes.htm

Ancient Greek Culture Theatre  lecture notes.doc

Roman Culture Politics Religion  lecture notes.htm

Roman Culture Politics Religion  lecture notes.doc

Roman Republican Government  lecture notes.htm

Roman Republican Government lecture notes.doc

Why Did Rome Fall?  lecture notes.htm

Why Did Rome Fall?  lecture notes.doc

Classical Art   lecture notes.htm

Classical Art  lecture notes.doc

Early Judaism  lecture notes.htm

Early Judaism lecture notes.doc

Early Christianity  lecture notes.htm

Early Christianity  lecture notes.doc

Christian Art Architecture  lecture notes.htm

Christian Art Architecture  lecture notes.doc

Medieval Synthesis  lecture notes.htm

Medieval Synthesis  lecture notes.doc

Renaissance Art  lecture notes.htm

Renaissance Art lecture notes.doc

The tests and corresponding study guides are listed below.  The goal behind the tests was to balance the need for critical thinking while also requiring students to memorize specific facts that they may encounter again later on in life, such as on TV documentaries, movies, magazines, books, and/or newspapers.  So the tests were relatively difficult (i.e., they did not use multiple choice questions, but instead fill-in the blank questions, essays), but by giving students study guides (including the essay questions) and by keying the lectures with asterisks (*) for terms that would show up on the tests, the material on the tests wasn't supposed to be a surprise.

TESTS:

TEST 1  Origins to Greece.wpd

TEST 1  Origins to Greece.pdf

TEST 2  Rome Judaism Early Christianity.doc

TEST 2  Rome Judaism Early Christianity.pdf

TEST 2a  Judaism Islam Christianity Art.wpd

TEST 2a Judaism Islam Christianity Art.pdf

TEST 3  Medieval Europe.wpd

TEST 3  Medieval Europe.pdf

TEST 4  Renaissance Art Philosophy Science.doc

TEST 4  Renaissance Art Philosophy Science.pdf

Study guides:

Test 1  Origins to Greece  study guide.htm

Test 1  Origins to Greece  study guide.doc

Test 1a  Origins to Rome study guide.htm

Test 1a  Origins to Rome  study guide.doc

Test 2a  Judaism Christianity Medieval Europe  study guide.doc

Test 2a  Judaism Christianity Medieval Europe  study guide.htm

Test 3 Judaism Christianity Art  study guide.pdf

Test 4  Renassiance Early Modern Europe  study guide.htm

Test 4  Renassiance Early Modern Europe study guide.doc

 

  

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