Often called the father of scientific or objective history, the ancient Greek philosopher Thucydides did not see himself that way. According to our guest, history can never be a blueprint. We just can’t make sense of it. There are no immutable iron laws. Professor of Humanities and author Robert Zaretsky penned an op-ed in the New York times titled “The Lesson History Teaches is Tragic; The idea that we can avoid the mistakes of the past is misguided.” He asks, “Why bother studying the past, then, if it cannot help us navigating the present?” Many good reasons. He says early historians were entertainers and that all humans are interested in meaning, and the theatrical genre of tragedy is a good model from which we can learn. The fact that people–like the Chinese kid versus the tank– resist, they may break but they do not bend, is a worthy lesson to learn and emulate. And he argues that prudence and humility, for nations as with individuals, is of most value.

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