On judging people of the past

A bold statement: People of the past should almost always be judged by today’s standards. This results in thinking of a lot of historical figures as horrible people. So yeah, I’ll say it: most historical figures were horrible people. Some of them were horrible because their surrounding culture was horrible, and others were just plain horrible.

My basic reasoning: Moral judgment isn’t for people of the past. The people of the past are dead, and their actions are already foregone conclusions. Moral judgement is for people of the present. I do not wish for people of the present to valorize or emulate people of the past just because they were great by the standards of their own time. I strive for the perpetual improvement of humankind, not the stagnation of virtue. [Read more…]