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F.E. SPARSHOTI '"'Will the Future Resemble the Past?' " , Paterfamilias: How much are your pencils, gaffer? Sen,x: Fifty dollars, sir, same as elsewhere. But the gentry for their part give me what they can spare, and mostly leave my pencils be. P: You are, then, nothing but a common beggar? S: True for you, sir. Yet I was not always as you see me now. Once I made my ten million a year steady, same as the next man. I taught philosophy yonder, where you see those weed-grown ruins. P: What, in Victoria College, did you? I am glad to hear it; for my son studies philosophy even now, and asks me such questions as set my head in a whirl. I would gladly sit by you on this park bench, and ask them of you. S: Sit, then, and ask. P: Well, gaffer, his resource person bids him answer whether the future will resemble the past. S: What, are they at that still? Then the answer is yes, for that question was stale already in my time. P: But also no, since the time is no longer yours, though truly I know not whose time it may be. But my son did not look to be told that all manner of thing changes, or that all remains ever the same. He would be answered rather whether experience of the past could be any guide at all among the uncertainties of the future. S: Why not? It always has been. P: And so I told the boy, but he complained that I spoke not in earnest. For I must know, said he, that what always has been is already in the past. But he asked of the future, which is yet to be. S: Bulit is of the future, that is yet to be, that I spoke. I have always used my knowledge of the past, which had already been, to foretell the future, which was yet to be. Nor has this knowledge failed me. Futures beyond number have indeed resembled countless pasts. Why should the future of which we now speak, and of which we now say truly that it is yet to be, be unlike all those others? It is but one future the more. P: No reason that I know of, but why should it not? I do not say that we doubt what the future will hold, but that our certainty that it will be like the past is a certainty we cannot justify. We have, it seems, a natural UTQ, Volume XLIV, Number), Spring "975 174 F.E. SPARSHOTT belief, but lack proof of reason. Can reason give us assurance that the future will be like the past? S: Indeed, sir, if that is your question, my reason assures me of the contrary. For by 'future' I mean just what is to come, and by :past' I mean what is gone. The future is what I cannot remember, the past what I cannot expect. Whatever I caU 'future' I call so to signify that it is neither past nor present, and by 'past' I mean nothing but what is neither future nor present. And thus my reason assures me that the future, simply as future, must be unlike the past, simply as past, in every respect save one: that both are denominations of time. And indeed, had they not that degree of likeness, it had been vain to compare them. P: Very ingenious, gaffer. Yet it seems to me that you speak but of the words 'future' and 'past: or of the future and past conceived in some abstracted manner; and I would ask of the very times themselves. Will the future, when it comes, be as the past was? S: I am very sorry, sir, I took you wrong. To this last question the answer must be yes. The future, when it comes, will be the present, just as the past was when it came and before it went. And this I do know for sure; for to have come and not gone is nothing but to be present, and only in the present can anything be anything. The future, while it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 173-184
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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