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The Humanities has been described, in the words of English poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold, as the study of “the best that has been thought and said.” Arnold believed that there is a canon of great works that illuminates the issues surrounding human existence, and that contains ideas that, because of humanity’s unchanging nature, are valid for all time. Rather than starting life with no guide, each new generation can “stand on the shoulders of giants” and can both profit from and build on what is already known.
Modern educators reject these notions and posit the transcendental truth that there are no transcendental truths. They then advance another self-contradictory transcendental truth that, in George Will’s words, “every principle is the product of historical context and is no more durable or valuable than the context was or is.”
People cannot function in a world in which historicism is taken literally. Imagine every few years having to reconstruct ex nihilo the Western moral code – a system of thought that evolved over millennia – with its respect for the value of the individual and of individual freedom and responsibility, and its strictures against murder, slavery, rape, assault, theft, libel, and fraud. Were historicism applied to science and technology, each generation would also be tasked with rediscovering fire, the wheel, and the Laws of Thermodynamics.
Despite its shaky, self-refuting foundation and its obvious disutility, “historicism,” the name given to this bundle of transcendental lies, has largely taken over higher education in much of the West. This, because the belief provides a useful, if illogical, rationale for the Left’s idee fixe of burn-it-all-down-start-from-scratch revolution to liberate society from the past’s oppressive customs and ideals.
Conveniently, historicism provides a ready response to any dissent based on fact, logic, and reason, because fact, logic, and reason are, historicists insist, contextual. Your facts are not my facts and my facts may well be different tomorrow, thus the all-purpose, question-begging end to any debate.
After the revolution, this nonsense will be swept away along with anyone who, not realizing the scam’s transient purpose, foolishly insists on believing it. Once the old order has been eliminated, were historicism allowed to fester, it would put any newly created utopia at risk. After all, a perfect world cannot rest on lies.Published in