Thursday, 27 December 2007


George Santayana's most famous line is from The Life of Reason (1905-06): "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But which lesson from history are we to learn? Before Iraq (say), politicians had to choose between remembering Vietnam, or remembering the appeasement of Hitler. That we have been condemned to repeat the former is not a function of a failure to remember, but rather of remembering, perhaps in good faith, the wrong thing. But Santayana's apothgem doesn't help us with this ...

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