The Instigator
evildead151
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Cutty
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

History does not repeat it self.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2011 Category: Education
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,775 times Debate No: 15397
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (0)

 

evildead151

Pro

Definition of history as per Merriam-Webster.com: a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes.

I shall debate that History does not repeat itself.
Cutty

Con

Definition of repeat as per Merriam-Webster.com: to say or state again

I shall debate and prove conclusively that 'history' as defined by opponent as 'a chronological record of significant events" does in fact repeat, in as much as it is possible to say or state again a document outlining a particular portion of history, which, as a chronological record, would meet my opponents criteria for 'history'.

I will also prove, as a side point, the futility of attempting to win a debate by deliberately misinterpreting the meaning of a well known statement in order to win by default on a semantic technicality by verbally annihilating any of my opponents attempts to the contrary and applying the very same semantic chicanery he himself employs.

Debate Round No. 1
evildead151

Pro

Let get specific in what history we shall debate to clear things up. I suggest european history, perhaps at the high school or college level only for its familiarity, other suggestions to the type of history are welcome (ancient, middle eastern, latin america, ect.). We can eliminate the semantic technicality by further specifying this argument to social history rather then history of wars, if this pleases my opponent. I wish to have an actually debate about this topic and i don't care to win easily on a semantic technicality (thats a b/s win and everyone knows it). The phrase "history repeats it self" was created for a reason one i believe to be false.
Cutty

Con

My thanks to my opponent for his quick response. My apologies for assuming that an underhanded victory predicated on a literal misinterpretation of this phrase was your goal, but you have to admit it is understandable given the phrasing of your opening statement in round one. You chose such a literal definition of history, it was hard to see what angle other than literal interpretation you'd be taking. I will use my response to further clarify the point at hand, and hopefully my opponent will agree and begin debate in round 3 in support of his case.

Pro suggests we limit the interpretation of history to that concerning the European continent, and by extension the United States. While I have absolutely no problem with doing so, I maintain that the specific culture we focus on is irrelevant to the debate, and one could easily substitute any or all other cultural groups and my arguments will remain valid.
Pro then holds that we can eliminate the semantic technicality by specifying that the argument must concern social history rather than a history of wars, but I fail to see how this is the case. The obvious semantic technicality does not hinge upon the type of history being discussed, but rather the exactness by which my opponent defines the familiar saying contained in the Resolution. Specifically, one could argue that history does not repeat itself because molecules and atoms are always moving, and even if you have two otherwise identical events, such as a man walking to the store twice, those molecules will be in different positions, therefore history did not technically repeat. I maintain that arguments of this nature go against the spirit of the saying in question, and attempts to pursue arguments of this kind should be considered an attempt at semantics, which my opponent has expressed as undesired in this debate.

Since my opponent has stated that he wishes to debate the merits of, and meaning behind the phrase "history repeats itself", rather than attempting a win by semantic technicality, I feel we should explore exactly what that intended meaning is. Pro further maintains that

"[The phrase]...was created for a reason, one I believe to be false."

I take this to be the main theme of his case, and thus of this debate. I am unsure of how a reason can be considered "false" or "true" inherently, perhaps my opponent will agree to substitute the word 'invalid', defined as "not true because based on erroneous information or unsound reasoning" for 'false', as that more accurately represents the issue at hand. Furthermore, if we are to debate the underlying meaning of the phrase, and not argue based on the literal interpretation of words contained within, then we must define what that meaning is, in the context of this debate. I propose the following definition, as put forward by Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, which reads:

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF - "History follows a pattern of events that recur in different eras. Also used to refer to anything that happens more than once. The proverb has been traced back to 'Rufus Historie' . It was later used in 'Scenes of Clerical Life' by English novelist George Eliot (1819-80). First attested in the United States in 'Marian Rooke' by H. Sedley."
(Source: http://www.phrases.org.uk...)

It is clear that the phrase refers to 'a pattern of events',rather than specific identical events, that span multiple eras. That is to say, the material content of those eras are irrelevant to the underlying human and historical condition being commented upon (such as suffering caused by a tyrannical ruler, regardless of whether or not the population had computers and running water yet). This definition does present some difficulty however, due to Pro's assertion "

"The phrase "history repeats it self" was created for a reason one I believe to be false.

Further research indicates that the meaning behind the phrase can be traced back to Thucydides in 400BC with his statement:

"I shall be content if those shall pronounce my history useful who desire to have a clear view both of the events which have happened, and of those which will some day, in all human probability, happen again in a same or similar way.~Thucydides, History, bk. 1, ch. 22 (c.400 BC)"
(source: http://forum.quoteland.com...)

This is the oldest quote I could find on the subject, and I am unsure if it can be considered an origin of the term, and since Pro holds that he will show the reason behind the creation of the phrase as invalid, then we have to agree upon what form of the phrase is to be considered the original. If it would be easier for my opponent to refute a more contemporary and widely accepted usage of the phrase, perhaps we can use the saying

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
~George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905, ch. 12

as the basis for our debate. I leave the choice to my opponent, as it should be clear to him by now that he is debating a concept almost as old as humanity itself, and he's going to need every advantage he can get in defining the terms of this debate.

If my opponent concurs with my above statements, then we have common ground upon which to debate. To summarize, we are agreeing to debate the spirit of the intended meaning behind the phrase "history repeats itself", rather than building arguments upon semantic technicality. Burden of proof falls on my opponent to show the invalidity of the statement 'history repeats itself.' He must prove, as per his own admission, that the phrase was created for no reason, and that, in terms of its commonly accepted meaning, it is incorrect in its claim.

If Pro agrees to the definitions outlined above, he is of course free to begin his arguments to support his case. If he feels that further defining is in order, he may continue to do so as well. If he decides to pursue a semantic line of argument he is free to do so, although I will reserve the right to pursue my own line of semantic reasoning if that is the case.

Debate Round No. 2
evildead151

Pro

I must start off by thanking my for providing a courteous and through response. The mistaken intent is quite understandable given the wording. I merely wish to engage in an entertaining and though provoking debate rather then squabble for points ranking. I think we can both agree for the sake of the debate that history, in the literal sense, dose not and can not repeat itself for the statements mentioned and many others. I also thank my opponent with their suggestion in change of wording from false to invalid and agree to the change.

I indeed agree to debate the spirit of the intended meaning behind the phrase "history repeats itself", rather than building arguments upon semantic technicality. I will show to the best of my abilities the invalidity of the statement 'history repeats itself" by means of refuting its intentions.

For purposes of this debate I will agree with my opponents use of a Thucydides quote as a possible origin to the phrase in debate and try to establish its general purpose. I shall also attempt to use the contemporary quotation from George Santayana to fther expain the general purpose of the phrase in debate and its invalidity.

If my opponent agrees to the established intent behind the phrase then i shall continue my argument building off this premise.

Thucydides believed in being as accurate as possible in his descriptions and only recorded events that occurred in his own lifetime. He followed in the footsteps of his contemporary Heroditous, "the father of history", yet took great strides to differentiate the type of history he wrote.Thucydides was the first to apply a scientific method to recording history and avoided entertaining embellishments. Thucydides contributions to historiography earned him the title the "father of modern history" as opposed to his predecessor Heroditous, "the father of history" who was often accused of over embellishing his history for entertainment purposes. Thucydides was also know fro witting history for a moral purpose, to teach a lesson to future generations.

"[H]is own work, he explains, has been written "not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment" Rather, it is designed to be useful and to last, to be "a possession for all time." It will, he believes, prove of lasting value, because it contains a moral lesson" Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, II. 22 Crawley, London, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1910, p.11

In his work, Thucydides aims to teach future generations by recording an accurate history and showing the moral lesson behind its events. Thucydides history of the Peloponnesian war recants a tale intended to teach its readers a moral lesson, between good and evil, and some general truth about human relations. The selected quote of origin reaffirms Thucydides motive to writing history.

"I shall be content if those shall pronounce my history useful who desire to have a clear view both of the events which have happened, and of those which will some day, in all human probability, happen again in a same or similar way.~Thucydides, History, bk. 1, ch. 22 (c.400 BC)"
(source: http://forum.quoteland.com......)

Thucydides teaches history so that we may avoid the problems of the past or at least know what to do if encountered by similar problems. Therefore we may assume that if the phrase "history repeats itself" derived its origins from Thucydides that its intent was to remind readers that the lessons learned from the past, from history, will save you in similar future events.

This view is also shared in the contemporary quotation from the author George Santayana used by my opponent as a contemporary comparison.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
~George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905, ch. 12

Santayana implies, much like Thucydides, that history has a lesson to be learned and that knowing them problems faced in the past can be avoided. The past holds the answers to todays problems, and possibly tomorrows as well. In a way, like Thucydides, Santayana's quote poses that the future is predictable, that event repeat themselves and knowledge of impending events will help a person to avoid catastrophe, and to a certain extent this may be valid, but life is not so predictable that lessons of the past will be applicable in future circumstances.

I submit to my opponent that the phrase is used to remind people that the past contains knowledge applicable in future crisis and events, and that knowledge of past events will help a person, and or nation, to overcome potential and current problems. If he agrees then I will continue my argument on the established foundation and proceed as to why this is and invalid assumption. If he does not I shall try to resolve issues wile continuing the debate.
Cutty

Con

I thank my opponent for such a thorough background on the originator of the phrase Thucydides, and for his further clarification of the intent behind it. I accept Pro's interpretation of the phrase, namely that it is "used to remind people that the past contains knowledge applicable in future crisis and events, and that knowledge of past events will help a person, and or nation, to overcome potential and current problems."

I would further pose that the phrase "history repeats itself" is an extension of that idea, it being employed most often as a commentary to a situation when someone or some nation, political body, etc, forgets to heed the advice of Thucydides and Santayana. Thus, the advice is not heeded, the past is not considered (or considered and rejected), and history repeats itself.

I am glad to see we have moved far beyond the realm of semantic bickering, and I look forward to Pro's arguments for his case, as I am very curious to see the reasoning behind his assertions!

Debate Round No. 3
evildead151

Pro

I thank my opponent for his hasty response and his continued diplomatic rapport in this debate.

Now that we have agreed upon the meaning of the phrase in question, specifically that the phrase "history repeats itself" is used to remind people that the past contains knowledge applicable in future crisis and events, and that knowledge of past events will help a person, and or nation, to overcome potential and current problems, I shall make my case.

I also accept my Opponents extension on the idea of the phrase in question.

I will start by asserting that this phrase is invalid, in its agreed upon meaning, because that lessons taught to us from ancient historians such as, Thucydides (c.460 BC – c. 395 BC) or the ancient roman historian Liv (c.59 BC - c. 17AD) and even more modern historians such as, Leopold von Ranke (1795 – 1886) or E. H. Carr (1892 – 1982), are only applicable in the context of their times. That is to say that the context of our present time renders the lessons of the past, created in a different context, invalid. Contemporary problems present new and complex difficulties then those of the past, although in a general sense there exist some similarities between past and present problems, it is the specific variables to these problems, along with the knowledge of past events, that differentiate them and renders the lessons of the past invalid. This action of citing the past for president on average shows insufficient regard for historical context, a key principal in the modern historiographical practice of historical awareness.

Thucydides make a rather bold statement when asserting the idea that studying past events on could help future generations to avoid these problems or alt least be prepared to deal with them. Thucydides, like most early historians, lacked access to creditable historical sources. Owing to a lack of alternative evidence, Thucydides used Homers Iliad, as a source in his introduction to his writings on "pre-historic" Greece. (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, I. 1 Crawley, London, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1910, p.9) In his writings Thucydides notes the questionable accuracy to witch Homer has adhered to when writing the Iliad, basing it off earlier oral traditions. Thucydides admits that the information that he is citing, and therefore drawing conclusions about, may not be accrete. We see here that Thucydides had limited access to historical evidence in his time and that the evidence he did have was questionable in its credibility, therefore we may infer that the lack of credible historical evidence available to Thucydides gave him a limited viewpoint to draw such a presumptuous conclusion that "history repeats itself".

Putting aside the conclusions about the credibility of Homer's Iliad and Thucydides use of it for lack of alternative evidence, Thucydides other methods of ascertaining evidence were questionable in their credibility as well. In his quest for historical accuracy Thucydides conducted interviews with eyewitness of events and spent time with solders at war and used them to create his history of the Peloponnesian War. The problem here is again credibility, eyewitness accounts are questionable for many reasons.

Sources on eyewitness credibility.
(source: http://writ.news.findlaw.com...)
(source:http://agora.stanford.edu...)

Again we see that Thucydides has drawn such a presumptuous conclusion from a limited and questionable sources. Thus I assert that the phrase, "history repeats itself" was created for a purpose, designated previously, one I believe to be invalid due to the questionable and limited sources from witch the conclusions was drawn upon. I also assert that the phrase it self is invalid on the notion that when citing the past to answer problems of today little regard is shown for historical context, a key principal in contemporary historiographical practice of historical awareness.

The quote by George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is also invalid following the same line of reasoning. Even in a more contemporary setting comparisons often neglect the historical context from witch they are citing.
Cutty

Con

Cutty forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
evildead151

Pro

Regrettably my opponent has forfeited the last round for reasons unknown. I maintain my position that history does not repeat itself.
Cutty

Con

Cutty forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Cutty 5 years ago
Cutty
@ Hello-Orange hehe, he made that comment BEFORE I accepted the challenge....his comment was actually an influence in my decision to accept...I got to thinking about his statement that "in a strictly literal sense, history does not repeat" and I thought.....hmmmm, well, how literal do you want to get?

Since this whole premise is obviously an attempt to win an argument on semantic technicality, I thought I'd stymie his with a bit of my own;)
Posted by BangBang-Coconut 5 years ago
BangBang-Coconut
@Spaztoid No way! I love the spin Cutty is making on it, don't change a thing!
Posted by Spaztoid 5 years ago
Spaztoid
You should redefine this debate. In a strictly literal sense, indeed history does not repeat itself. The there has been only one American Revolutionary War. However, if you are debating figuratively, then there is room for opposition.
Posted by resolutionsmasher 5 years ago
resolutionsmasher
you are taking a figure of speach literally and trying to dupe us into accepting this, pitiful dude
Posted by Cobo 5 years ago
Cobo
Exactly OreEle.
Major events always repeat, but then technology advances.
So what history are we getting at?
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
Ore_Ele
Also must question the exactness of the repetition. The common phrase "don't let history repeat itself" (or whatever spin off) does not refer to an exact repetition, but a repetition of major events (notably, the failures to prevent something).
Posted by Cobo 5 years ago
Cobo
I'll take it if Pro redefines his opening a little.
Are we to go into all sets of chronological events?
Or just some?
No votes have been placed for this debate.