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Listening to historical figures

  1. Dec 27, 2005 #1

    Pengwuino

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    Now, to be clear, when I say "figures", i mean pretty much anything such as people, books..... ok thats about it haha.

    Why do we listen to historical figures so much? Now lets ignore the fact that in many cases, quotes and ideals are taken way out of context. Why are we so quick to be in awe and amazement over what historical figures say? Be it Benjamin Franklin, Einstein (not his science related quotes and sayings), FDR, Caesar, ancient philosophers, etc etc; we always seem to stand back when someone utters one of these quotes as if an all-powerful force has just trivialized your entire argument. I personally have a problem with a lot of these quotes and I'll name a few. Some of these aren't exact so please bear with me.

    "Money is the root of all evil". Now, is this taken out of context? How does one explain it when someone murders some girl's boyfriend out of jealously? There is no money involved! What happened before currencies existed?

    "Those who are willing to sacrifice a little privacy for a little security deserve neither". Again, this is brought up time and time in privacy issue arguments but let's think about this in the big picture. The idea that you can't even be born without the government knowing and logging it in in industrialized countries in most cases to me is a pretty good sign that we have indeed given up large amounts of privacy. I feel it is far more logical to say that one can have both privacy and security and the ideal is going to be a combonation of the both and I don't feel its logical that one shouldn't deserve both.

    "It makes me hate war, but it doesn't make me believe that we're in a world that can live without war yet." Now this one actually runs counter to many other claims of war and is from a soldier during a war (modern times actually) that I do disagree with. I think until true peace exists on earth, war must exist as a device of change as many people are in positions of extreme power that hold no regard for the lives of other people or their own citizens (ie. the various genocides around the world and through history). Now, for example, what would have happened if the Allies in WW2 never went to war with Hitler? What if the concentration camps were never shut down? Well I believe we saw in Rwanda what happens when war is not an option. Was it worth keeping a few countries pride and conscience clear by not going to war at the cost of upwards of 800,000 lives?

    "We make war that we may live in peace." + "After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing." - Now again, we have two quoted men that have contrary views on something, in this case war. So why do we quote either? Is one person MORE right? Does it add to an argument? I just don't see how it would...

    Theres my rant, I started getting tired and confused towards the end so it might not be as awesome as the beginning
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 27, 2005 #2
    For the most part famous people are quoted when they have expressed a particular idea particularly well. Usually that means especially succinctly, but it also includes the particularly eloquent. A pithy quote has more punch.

    We tend to quote historical figures because quoting the future screws the timeline all up.
     
  4. Dec 27, 2005 #3
    I wonder this myself, actually. For example, regarding Christianity, without the 2000 year history, tradition, and the abundance of believers, would there nearly be as many people willingly follow Christianity? If a book of the Bible were written by a recent person, would people be as willing to take it as absolute truth? This goes for any religion too. I mean, I think people are a lot more skeptical today than back 2000 years ago. I wonder how many people who claim to be, say, Christian would actually still be Christians if Jesus had lived relatively recently. In general, I think that people can easily accept religious beliefs because most, if not all of it, is hidden behind the mysterious cloak of history.
     
  5. Dec 27, 2005 #4

    Pengwuino

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    what did that have to do with the thread :confused:
     
  6. Dec 27, 2005 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Can you quote Joe Smith? How about Emma Pinkston, Johnny Johnson, or how about Robert VanMaurel?

    Hmmmm, maybe the source has something to do with it...
     
  7. Dec 27, 2005 #6
    Historical figure = Jesus; Historical quotes = Bible

    o:) o:) o:) o:) o:) o:) o:) o:) :uhh:
     
  8. Dec 27, 2005 #7

    Pengwuino

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    Exactly, why do we do it? Any of those quotes would normally be followed by its source name but what does it really matter who it was? What if my cousin had been the one who said the security/privacy quote. Let's say the quote was never a historical quote in the first place and my cousin was in fact the first to say it and let's say he's some mechanic; would it have the same awe inspiring quality to other people?

    I try to not let famous quotes have any sway over me unless its an actually rare occasion where it puts a very valid new viewpoint on things. I suppose they have a lot of sway over you if you really never think about other viewpoints and are susceptible to the whole idea that some people are on just whole other levels of consciousness when it comes to views on humanity.
     
  9. Dec 27, 2005 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    I think what you are missing is that truisms stand the test of time - there is nothing new under the sun, and that sort of thing... So perhaps there is something to be learned from quotes that are remembered decades, or even centuries later.

    In other words, why re-invent the wheel?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2005
  10. Dec 27, 2005 #9

    Pengwuino

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    Then is it fair to say that maybe these quotes constitute the basis of current day "common sense"? I think I came along and then see these quotes as an adult and think "well this is all common sense" but maybe the reality of the situation is that these quotes came along to give me a common sense and only now I have come in hindsight to incorrectly think it simply was my own self-developed common sense.

    Then again, using that logic, it seems like quoting people is a way of insulting someone in an argument. It's like "this is common sense! I find it necessary to tell you what is common sense to everyone else by quoting possibly fundamental truths".
     
  11. Dec 27, 2005 #10
    basically yeah. the past has a lot to teach us, hence we refer to it often. and you'll often find people who just don't learn the lesson so well, and hence you use some historical quote. its profound when an ancient thought is so applicable to a current situation. it belittles the argument. works even in just recent history too. sometimes people forget the lessons they've learnt in their own lives, and even have to be reminded then. i know with my parents, they said lots of little altruisms to us when we were kids, and now, i'll find my mother doing things, and i'll just quote what she used to tell me. oftentimes too, during an argument, using someone elses quote helps to give validity to your argument because its not JUST your opinion, its been shared by someone else. and if its someone presitigious, it gives you more credibility.
     
  12. Dec 27, 2005 #11
    I think that people tend to quote in argument because they can't think of what to say themselves or don't care enough about the argument to provide their own words. The quotes don't help though. If someone wanted to they could always find another quote that disagrees with the first. It could become a war of quotes instead of a real discussion.
    Other than that I think that they are mainly used for inspiration and reminders of our history. One may quote a certain person because they like that particular quote or admire that particular person so it doesn't matter who else said what really.
     
  13. Dec 27, 2005 #12

    BobG

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    I agree 100%.

    As Mark Twain once said, "It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive."
     
  14. Dec 27, 2005 #13
    Oh, Look! A signature!
     
  15. Dec 27, 2005 #14
    You're misquoting that. He actually said, "For five dollars I'll write something quotable on any subject, supporting any perspective you please."

    Actually, though, he didn't say that. That was actually said by me. And it's alot more than five dollars.
     
  16. Dec 27, 2005 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    That's where the source matters.

    Also, take for example something said by a famous general way back when. Approx: In war, the enemy must constantly be villified lest the men lose their will to fight.

    As opposed to a somewhat famous quote from the sixties: "You can always trust a communist to be a communist".

    I think the difference is pretty clear.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2005
  17. Dec 27, 2005 #16
    I like quotations and use several different ones quite often. They really help get your point across. Some of my favorites:

    Early to bed, Early to Rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise ~Rip V. Winkle

    You can call me Jay, or you can call me Ray just don't call me late for dinner ~Kunta "Toby" Kinte

    Look at world with open eyes and don't be afraid to speak your mind ~Helen Keller

    Does a bear s**t in the woods? ~ Pope Pius IV

    I'm on break, find someone else to help you. ~ Igor

    Screw this! I quit! ~ Wile E. Coyote

    Can't we all just get along? ~A. Hitler
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2005
  18. Dec 27, 2005 #17
    This is a classic aswell...
     
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