TOK: #19 – Studying the Past

Since no one knows the past as it really was, there is no point in studying it.”

One could argue that there is no value in studying the past since we will never be able to know everything about it. It is not possible to know every detail about the past because there will always be information the gets lost over time, or is never shared with anyone else and kept personal. For example, there are many different sides of the story to World War II and it is impossible to know how everyone perceived the event individually, and how that may have impacted the outcome. Additionally, even if the person studying the past was present during that particular event and thus has a much clearer impression of what happened, they wouldn’t have been able to know every exact detail about what happened – they would only be able to know a fraction of the event. Thus, if complete accurate information cannot be gained regarding the past, then there is no value in studying it due to the lack of information proving to be useful.

On the other hand, one could argue that although every single detail of the past can never be known completely, it is still largely possible to gain some sort of truth about the past, allowing us to gain more insight into the past. For example, it may to valuable to investigate into why certain pieces of information are missing or inaccurate (i.e. what has influenced the inaccuracy of the information and what that may suggest about the historical event). For instance, if information about the Chinese Cultural Revolution is found to be inaccurate due to the influence of the communist rule, it could be valuable for historians to study the extent of the impact of the communist rule. Therefore, even though it isn’t possible to know the past as it really was, the information gained can still be valuable for studying as it still reveals more insight into the past.


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