Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is this real?

I've always wondered how if what we know today is actually what happened in the past. This sounds weird and kind of doesn't make a lot of sense so I'm going to try my best and explain myself. To provide an example related to what we are currently learning, most of what we think we know about Socrates and his works is because of what Plato, his student and scribe, recorded in his dialogues. However, we are getting only Plato's perspective. While many of his dialogues are considered accurate, how do we know for certain that Plato did not disclose some information or alter it, mixing in his own ideas with Socrates's? We rely on accounts that have been passed down over time, but it is impossible to understand truly what happened during that specific moment in history. I suppose this idea can be related to exploration (ex: Banana Massacre)--it is the conqueror's history and stories that prevail and survive in the history of exploration. Once again, we are not getting a full perspective. While most of what we know today about the history of the world is definitive, there are some parts in the timeline that are blurred. It is like playing the game "telephone." One person starts with a phrase (or in this case, an event in history), but as it gets passed to the next person (or, generation), the phrase (or, event) is often altered due to a mistake made by an individual/group of people. This mistake could be caused from forgetting or mishearing the phrase (event) and telling the next person what they think they heard, or purposely substituting the phrase with something else to add some zest. Thus, how do we know that someone didn't get bored and decide to rewrite history? Although it can be argued that this is highly unlikely, the basic answer is, we don't know. My main point is that as time goes on, history is bound to get lost or mis-logged. Another example that really messes with me involves what we know about language--Latin, in particular. After taking Latin for five years, I can say that the Latin language is very complex. There are five noun declensions, and four verb conjugations, which may be affected by one of three persons, one of two numbers, one of three genders, one of six tenses, one of three moods, and one of two voices. It is extremely confusing to distinguish, among several things, the difference between a gerund and a gerundive since both words have an indicative "nd," or 4th declension accusative with second declension accusative plural since they both have the same "um" endings. How do we know therefore, that somewhere along the way translators did not misinterpret what the Romans meant? One simple mistake could change the entire meaning of the language itself. Historians could be mistranslating some of the greatest historical documents that exist today and we would not know. We trust what was passed down to us without considering that something could have happened along the way.

5 comments:

Madison Cummings said...

Wow! That is really interesting how you compare the passing down of history to the telephone game. I never thought using that game as a comparison! It is extremely accurate because the larger the group you play telephone with, the more distorted the story ends up, and the longer it has been since an event occurs, it is likely that it becomes more and more distorted. Although I never thought of comparing it to that game, I have thought about the fact that some of the history we know today might be false, as, it has been passed down from so many generations that things may have gotten distorted. There would be multiple reasons for this. I am sure some of the mistakes and mistranslations are accidents, but it is possible that someone changed certain stories to reflect their own version of history, or they could even be a completely inaccurate description of how the person would have preferred things to happen. Since we lack any documentation, we will never know for sure if certain aspects of history are completely accurate!

Cheyenne Dwyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheyenne Dwyer said...

This was something I thought about as well Abbey. And even more so this year because of this class. I am definitely under the impression that alot of the history we learn is propaly slightly distorted in some way, just because we dont know all of the information, and the sources can be unreliable. Even so, It's important to study it in order to make educated decisions about the future and understand the background of the world around us, even if that background is a bit wrong. This also reminds me of the Buendia family and how they would often lie to each other that their own history became very distorted, and because of that, they were doomed not only to repeat themselves, but just doomed in general. So perhaps we're all doomed, but it's better to know what we can.

Jack Zheng said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Zheng said...

History has always been manipulated to some's advantage and will always be. Even if the unpleasant and inexpedient aspects of history aren't sought after to be destroyed, sometimes people simply forget about them because the ultimate outcome is deemed preferable to other possible outcomes. Mao and Stalin each murdered tens of millions of civilians, way more than even the highest estimates for Hitler. However, they were allied with the faction that won, and so people forget about their atrocities after generations pass. I would say that we are responsible for passing on the right information, but who are we to do anything if we don’t become authors and historians?