One of the earliest political philosophers in the English tradition was John Selden. A recent journal article discussing his contribution to American law and culture points out how well he articulated the importance of studying history in great detail.

Selden responds to the claims of universal reason by arguing for a position that can be called historical empiricism. On this view, our reasoning in political and legal matters should be based upon inherited national tradition. This permits the statesman or jurist to overcome the small stock of observation and experience that individuals are able to accumulate during their own lifetimes (“that kind of ignorant infancy, which our short lives alone allow us”) and to take advantage of “the many ages of former experience and observation,” which permit us to “accumulate years to us, as if we had lived even from the beginning of time.” In other words, by consulting the accumulated experience of the past, we overcome the inherent weakness of individual judgement, bringing to bear the many lifetimes of observation by our forebears, who wrestled with similar questions under diverse conditions (latter emphasis added).

This is one of many reasons that at Redeemer we study history, not social studies, and as a core subject. We study it as a rigorous discipline worthy of its own attention, specificity, and methods rather than a diluted add-on salted about the curriculum. One of the goals of all this is to develop young adults with extremely well-informed judgment — which is another word for wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s