History of Medicine in America
Ⅰ: A Battle of Ideas
Two Worlds of Thought Clash, Yet Ultimately Come Full Circle and Return To Their Roots
You’ve all heard the quote from Winston Churchill:
“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
Churchill’s wisdom conveys not just the importance of learning from history, but the urgent need to do so.
It is cautionary and caring advice that seems to promise any person or nation for that matter, that if they take the time to learn from the past, they will be better equipped to avoid common pitfalls and problems that human beings seem to frequently encounter.
Yet, perhaps the most important insight that this quote reveals is not about the need for preparation or learning, but rather what it reveals about human beings.
More specifically, the cyclical nature of human behavior. Apparently, human beings have a pattern of action. This pattern of action is in itself is known as “human nature”.
The famous philosopher, historian, and archaeologist, R.G. Collingwood, wrote on the subject:
“History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.”
Perhaps even more revealing and poignant regarding human nature is a quote from Abraham Lincoln (in the context of The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865):
“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this (the Civil War), we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.”
History’s value as it stands alone is in its ability to teach us all wisdom. Wisdom about ourselves in who we are as human beings, as a society, as a nation and even as individuals.