Reason in Common Sense

George Santayana was an American philosopher who was one of the most prominent champions of critical realism. From 1905-1906, he published several volumes on reason in: common sense (vol 1), society (vol 2), religion (vol 3), art (vol 4), and science (vol 5). One quote that I like from the first volume on reason in common sense states, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today, we are reminded of a couple unfortunate repetitions of recent history.

First, remember back in February of this year when we told you about a man who had a heart attack while eating a “triple bypass burger” at a restaurant called the “Heart Attack Grill?” Well, it has happened again. This time it was a woman who collapsed at the restaurant (further story and video here). Surprise? Truth in advertising? Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Next, the USDA announced yesterday that a cow in California tested positive for mad-cow disease. This is the first case discovered since 2006 in the US. You might recall the concern that followed the first discovery of mad-cow in the US in 2003 that led to Japan and South Korea banning the importation of all US beef. Now, we don’t yet know if this case is the result of a spontaneous case of mad-cow disease or if it might be due to the banned practice of feeding cattle to cattle (cannibalism has been linked to prion diseases like mad-cow disease in a number of species including humans). In any case, the risk seems like another good reason to seek out grass-fed beef, and a reminder that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Indeed, just a few hours ago, the WSJ reported that two large South Korean retailers halted the sales of US beef and pulled the products from their store shelves.

So, let’s not forget the mistakes of the past. When we do, I fear that we will have to bear the consequences of making those mistakes again in the future.