On defending historical accounts

To defend the authenticity of a historical account by means of comparison to the many classical works of literature (Homer’s Iliad), philosophy (Plato’s Symposium) and science (Euclid’s Elements) – claiming that if doubt could be cast upon the said historical account, then it too could be cast upon those antediluvian works – is infuriatingly absurd.

Classical works are honored for their content, and not for their author. Iliad could well have been written by a Chinese pirate who lied compulsively, but that wouldn’t make a difference; the magnificence of the work remains all the same. And it is this magnificence, which reason verifies, that alone matters. Historical accounts, on the other hand, are purposed to recount an event of the past, and so depends on the honesty of their authors rather than their content. If the author was a swindler of the truth, then the historical account would be of no greater worth than fairy-tale fiction. Thus, I say absurd is such a defense because it rests on an irrational and childish comparison.


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