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Jan 18, 2005
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Miscellaneous words

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(PREZ-uhn-tiz-uhm) Pronunciation

noun: Evaluating past events and people by present-day values.

[From English present, from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praesent- (stem of praesens), from present participle of praeesse (to be present before others), from prae- (pre-) + esse (to be).]

NOTES: Presentism is the application of current ideals and moral standards to interpret historical figures and their actions. For example, consider Mr. John Teacher who caned pupils in his 1889 class. A presentist would say that Mr. Teacher engaged in unacceptable violence against children while one with an opposing view would claim that since it was considered OK to hit children at the time, Mr. Teacher isn't to be blamed.
Absenteeism isn't an opposite of presentism. Rather, it refers to chronic absence, e.g. from work or school. Another sense of the term presentism is the idea that the prophecies of Scripture (especially of the Apocalypse) are now being fulfilled.

"In apocalyptic style, he (Jonathan Clark) says that presentism 'reaches back into the past to silence its message'."
Stephen Howe; Fade to Blue; Independent (London, UK); Jul 12, 2003.

"Presentism is very often advanced in defense of America's founders. It is comforting to think that their generation, so distant in time from us, lived in a condition of moral ignorance, and thus innocence, regarding slavery. But that is not the case. Even Thomas Jefferson, some of whose statements exhibit an almost demented racism, could see clearly that slavery utterly compromised the nation: 'I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.'"
Henry Wiencek; Yale and the Price of Slavery; The New York Times; Aug 18, 2001.


In a pond koi can reach lengths of eighteen inches. Amazingly, when placed in a lake, koi can grow to three feet long. The metaphor is obvious. You are limited by how you see the world. -Vince Poscente, Olympian (1961- )

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