Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Hamilton’

Right, wrong and the “wrong” side of history

August 5, 2015

When Leon Trotsky was in exile the Soviet Union after losing his power struggle with Joseph Stalin, he still led a tiny splinter group.  He expelled dissidents from the group, saying he had consigned them “to the dust bin of history.”

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky

There are certain unstated assumptions in that remark, and in any statement about the right or wrong side of history.   The assumptions are that (1) the course of history is predictable, (2) the outcome of history is just and (3) being on the winning side proves you were right.

I disagree with all these assumptions.  I don’t think the course of history is predictable. I don’t think the outcome of history is necessarily just and I don’t think being a winner proves you are right.

Just to be clear, I agree that gay couples ought to enjoy the same rights as straight married couples.  I think this is a question of right and wrong, not of the right or wrong side of history.  However, I don’t think that people who were slower to see this than I was should be fired from their jobs or driven out of business merely because of their personal opinions.

But gay marriage is not the topic of this post.  The topic is why philosophies of history are bad guides to moral and ethical philosophy.

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