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GRE Issue Essay: The Main Benefit Of The Study Of History Is To Dispel The Illusion That People Living Now Are Significantly Different From People Who Lived In Earlier Times - With A Free Essay Review



Prompt: “The main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”

I agree with the statement that the main benefit of the study of history is to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times because even though many superficial appearances of many things might have been changed over time, some essential concepts and values may not change.

To begin with, I believe that the main benefit of the study of history is to think that people living now are not significantly different from people who lived in earlier times because by thinking people living now are are the same as people who live in earlier times, we can inherit some of their good thoughts and values that are durable over time, and apply them to our work and thinking. For instance, one earlier scientist, Thomas Edison, said that genius is 1 percent of inspiration and 99 percent of perspiration. He evaluated working hard, and it turn out to be true that working hard is one indispensable component to success. In addition, examples of Galileo, and Copernicus show that people should be encouraged to challenge authority, and this is shown to be important for many young scholars nowadays to develop the ability of critical thinking instead of taking everything for granted. For this reason, I think it is beneficial to realize that people living now are similar to people who lived in earlier times, and we can inherit some of their valuable thoughts, and qualities.

Moreover, another important benefit for thinking that people living now are that similar to people who lived in earlier times is that we can learn from the mistakes made by previous people. Since we are similar to them, it is possible that we are going to make similar mistakes as they did, and according to their stories, we can learn to avoid some of these mistakes. For instance, the history of man shows that autocracy is an unsuccessful system to govern a nation, thus for people living now, we should avoid dictatorship.

However, it can be beneficial to think that we are different from people who lived in earlier times. The imagination of people who lived in earlier times may be limited due to their technology constraint, while people living now can break the constraint and be more creative.

To sum up, I agree that the main benefit of the study of history is to realize that people living now are essentially the same as people who lived earlier, because there are many values and thoughts are durable over time, thus we can inherit these valuable thoughts, and discard wrong ideas to avoid making same mistakes.

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Essay Review

The "because" clause in the first paragraph articulates a reason for believing that people today are like people of earlier times; it doesn't really explain why you believe the given claim. Your second paragraph really serves to demonstrate that it is possible to learn things from people of earlier generations and I think the implication that this possibility is related to history's ability to dispel the illusion that people living now are significantly different from people who lived in earlier times is a bit forced. The best argument in the essay is that of the third paragraph, where you suggest that we are inclined to learn how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past only if we do not assume we are fundamentally different from our ancestors.

The penultimate paragraph seems a half-hearted attempt to consider the other side of the argument. The real other side of the argument here would be a claim that there are other things to be learned from history much more important than the fact that we are similar to people of old. Your third paragraph perhaps offers the best opportunity to dealing with that kind of objection. For instance, it has indeed been argued that the main benefit of history is that it teaches us how we can avoid repeating the mistakes of earlier societies; but it may well be difficult to learn such lessons of history if we assume we are different. If we think of the citizens of 1930s Germany as fundamentally different from us, for instance, we are inclined to be less cautious about ensuring that such extremely violent fascism as was witnessed then isn't repeated. Such considerations would justify the priority given to the lesson of history articulated in the original claim. (That's an example, for what it's worth, and since you asked in a previous comment, of clarifying how your "considerations shape your position.")

General comment: Before beginning an essay like this it is probably a good idea to think about the presuppositions of the original claim and so determine the questions that your essay should answer in order to be able to establish a reasonable position in relation to that original claim. Some of the pertinent questions here would appear to be: Are we in fact inclined to think we are different? Does the study of history expose this thought as an illusion? Is there a specific advantage to having this illusion dispelled; i.e., is it a dangerous illusion? Does history teach us more important things than the fact that we are similar to people of earlier times? I'll leave you to determine to what extent your essay grapples with such questions.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: uofr6460
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