XAT 2018 Question 2

Instructions

Please read the passage below and answer the questions that follow:

If history doesn’t follow any stable rules, and if we cannot predict its future course, why study it? It often seems that the chief aim of science is to predict the future - meteorologists are expected to forecast whether tomorrow will bring rain or sunshine; economists should know whether devaluing the currency will avert or precipitate an economic crisis; good doctors foresee whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be more successful in curing lung cancer. Similarly, historians are asked to examine the actions of our ancestors so that we can repeat their wise decisions and avoid their mistakes. But it never works like that because the present is just too different from the past. It is a wast of time to study Hannibal’s tactics in the Second Punic War so as to copy them in the Third World War. What worked well in cavalry battles will not necessarily be of much benefit in cyber warfare. Science is not just about predicting the future, though. Scholars in all fields often seek to broaden our horizons, thereby opening before us new and unknown futures. This is especially true of history. Though historians occasionally try their hand at prophecy (without notable success), the study of history aims above all to make us aware of possibilities we don’t normally consider. Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it. Each and every one of us has been born into a given historical reality, ruled by particular norms and values, and managed by a unique economic and political system. We take this reality for granted, thinking it is natural, inevitable and immutable. We forget that our world was created by an accidental chain of events, and that history shaped not only our technology, politics and society, but also our thoughts, fears and dreams. The cold hand of the past emerges from the grave of our ancestors, grips us by the neck and directs our gaze towards a single future. We have felt that grip from the moment we were born, so we assume that it is a natural and inescapable part of who we are. Therefore we seldom try to shake ourselves free, and envision alternative futures. Studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past. It enables us to turn our head this way and that, and begin to notice possibilities that our ancestors could not imagine, or didn’t want us to imagine. By observing the accidental chain of events that led us here, we realise how our very thoughts and dreams took shape - and we can begin to think and dream differently. Studying history will not tell us what to choose, but at least it gives us more options.

Question 2

Which of the following options is the closest to the essence of the passage?



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