Monday, January 13, 2014

"The end of history is the establishment of truth"

"WHATEVER brief and epigrammatic summary we make to explain the value of history to men, that formula still remains an imperative formula for them all, and I repeat it: the end of history is the establishment of truth.

"A man may be ever so accurately informed as to the dates, the hours, the weather, the gestures, the type of speech, the very words, the soil, the colour, that between them all would seem to build up a particular event. But if he be not seized of the mind which lay behind all that was human in the business, then no synthesis of his detailed knowledge is possible. He cannot give to the various actions which he knows their due order and proportion; he knows not what to omit, nor what to enlarge upon among so many, or rather a number potentially infinite of, facts; and his picture will not be (as some would put it) distorted: it will be false. He will not be able to use history for its end, which is the establishment of Truth. All that he establishes by his action, and all that he confirms and makes stronger, is Untruth. And so far as truth is concerned it would be far better that a man should be possessed of no history than that he should be possessed of history ill-stated as to its prime factor, which is human motive."

~Hilaire Belloc: On the Method of History.

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