Prejudice against the past

We have a prejudice against old ideas, generally. And in general, it’s a pretty reasonable prejudice for us to have.

An old idea that was well-known or even widely believed, that has since faded into obscurity, probably has problems. Or at least, it probably has an alternative that is more attractive in some way.

Once upon a time, older ideas, from the times of heroes and great prophets, seemed better, and novel ideas were deemed suspicious. Today, we think nearly the opposite.

But while our progressivism has given us many gifts, it also has its price.

Because old ideas aren’t necessarily worse. Sometimes an old idea dies not because it’s worse but because it is hard to understand and is easily strawmanned. Sometimes a new idea is more attractive not because it’s better but because it has better marketing. We can’t assume older is always and consistently worse.

But to fight the prejudice is not an easy task. If an old idea was difficult to understand in its own day, how much more is it today, listening in across centuries and changes of vocabulary and writing styles and societal opinions? This is a work that needs much time and effort.

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