Philosophical Rant#2: History and Context and Impact


As the old riddle-esq saying goes ” What came first the chicken or the egg?”. This rhetorical and longstanding inquiry, conveys more significance than is evident at the superficial level. This question grapples with the issue of origin and causality. If there are no chickens, how could there be eggs?  How did the original chicken come into existence if there were no other chickens to lay the eggs? It divulges into a mind bending contortions of paradoxes , streams of purposes logic, and cognitive dissonance.

This same conflict of causality and origin  can be extrapolated and replied to history and how it influences our decision making. The question then becomes which is most significant factor in how we determine the best course of action: past, present, or future? Does analyzing the mistakes of the past result in the best outcomes or does speculating what will engender future success? Should we look towards the sunrise, sunset, or just enjoy the moment?


Whenever we think about decisions being predicated on past history, inevitably, George Santayana’s famous quote comes to mind:

” Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

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There is quite a bit of wisdom and validity to this classic and profound quote. Is we can not take measures to prevent past errors they will transpire again.  In a sense, not obtaining any new information from the trial and error. For example, not fully analyzing the factors that enable a dictator to assume rule over a country. If those factors are not addressed subsequently similar situations, it has the potential to happen again in another country. So, it is certainly important to utilize the past as a template of what not to do. However, all because we have learned from the past, does this make it the most significant time context to use in decision making? Well, some could counterpoint, that especially, in the increasing complexity of modern life, the aptitude of encounter a situation that is unprecedented is more likely. How does looking to the past assist with decisions that do not have a past context?




While looking to past errors as a guide of what not to do, what should be done under circumstances that are urgent. Where the parameters of time do not allow for careful analysis. Instances where immediate action is required or the decision maker will experience instant peril or harm. Under such dire circumstances, it probably would be best to make a decision in context to the current circumstances.  While historically context could potentially provide some assistance in circumstances requiring a quick decision, the probability of it being the best paradigm is lower. Instances, such as a medical emergency where medical supplies are scant would require some improvising and unique ingenuity. Something that looking to the successes and failures of the past would provide little assistance to.



In regards to  time context, the future tends to be the preemptive  paradigm that does not draw from our past history, but rather unique ingenuity. The future paradigm is still closely connected to the past and present. The reason for this is that the past and present both prompt us to make plans for the future. For example, if you know last Friday your favorite restaurant was crowded, that would then prompt you to get there earlier to avoid the crowds. An example of utilizing the past to make a decision for the future.  However, present circumstances can also cause an individual to utilize the current circumstances as a context in the decision making process. For example, if you dislike your CURRENT job, you make then make the future plans to go to school for a career that you love. However, it hard to differentiate whether or not past, present, or future planning can be done independently from one another, which present a quite distinct third variable problem.




The “chicken or the egg” question does have quite a few commonalities with my inquiry into the relation of time context and decision making. Both are difficult to clearly define in regards to chronology. Because what defines the past from the present, because the past and the present can be defined as thinly as the parameter of seconds. So this question does suffer from the issue of the sorites paradox. It suffers from this paradox due to the vague parameters to what differentiates the past, present, and future. Also, much like discourse with the “chicken or the egg” inquiry, it is very difficult to ascertain whether the past is more influential than the present on the future and vice versa. Which is true in the sense that the future is a paradox with out the present or past, however, none of these time contexts exist independently of each other. Therefore, because we cannot separate them from one another due to interconnection, we cannot determine which is the best time context to utilize in the decision making process.









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