Chapter

The Practical Past

Gordon Graham

in The Shape of the Past

Published in print February 1997 | ISBN: 9780192892553
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670619 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192892553.003.0008

Series: OPUS

The Practical Past

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A distinction has long been drawn between the desire to have knowledge of the past entirely for its own sake and a more practical attitude which aims to uncover hidden meanings of relevance to the conduct of life. The idea that humanity might learn from its mistakes is an old one. The chapter also discuses views of Italian political theorist Machiavelli, and English philosopher David Hume. While it is necessary for historical narratives to be built out of fact, factuality is not a sufficient condition of a successful narrative, which must also operate with a principle or principles picking out of the mass of facts those that are relevant to the telos.

Keywords: historical narratives; Machiavelli; David Hume; factuality

Chapter.  7432 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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