Learning from history , Santayana and creativity.


“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”– George Santayana
This quote from George Santayana, contained in his book “Reason and Common Sense George_Santayana(1905)”, is often quoted as a warning not to forget history, and to instill the need to study what happened in order to ensure that it does not happen once again.
However, it is interesting to note that Santayana intended this statement as an incentive and as an encouragement to study history.
His emphasis was to learn the good things that can be learnt from the study of history, not only the learning of pitfalls. What he has explained was that progress needs “retentiveness,” which he meant was to remember those things that need to be repeated fully or partly in the future, under similar circumstances to bring the desired outcomes.
That is, in other words, to learn from the already existing experiences, rather than you going through the same things and gaining the same George-Santayana-on-Benchexperiences at the end. Experiences are not confined to your own, but the sum total of all relevant experiences of others.
He believed that progress needs retentiveness.
It is seen that Santayana too, has hit upon the foundations of creativity, and the process he advocates is more or less the same as offered in other diverse sources that have dealt with the factors behind creativity.(including Sun Tzu and Clausewitz).That is learn about the past experiences and draw out factors in your knowledge to make new combinations of known factors to meet the requirements of the new situation, issue or crisis.


Jagath Gunawardana Attorney-at-law


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