Hindsight: The Promise and Peril of Looking Backward

Hardcover | January 14, 2010

byMark Freeman

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Although the idea of hindsight is frequently associated with the biases, distortions, and outright lies of memory - as in the infamous "20-20" scenario or the conviction that one "knew it all along" - Mark Freeman maintains that this process of looking backward over the terrain of the past canalso serve as a profound source of insight, understanding, and self-knowledge. Consider Tolstoy's harrowing tale of Ivan Ilych, revisiting his past on the eve of his death, only to realize that the life he had been living was a lie. Consider as well the many times in our own lives when, uponreviewing the past, we are able to see what we could not, or would not, see earlier on. Hindsight is also intimately connected to what Freeman calls narrative reflection: Through the distance conferred by time, we can look back on past experiences and see them anew, as episodes in an evolving story. As important as "being in the now" and "living in the moment" are, it is no lessimportant to pause at times and, by looking backward, seek to discern those aspects of experience that might otherwise escape our notice. Far from necessarily leading to deception and lies, therefore, hindsight can lead to wisdom and indeed truth--of a sort, Freeman contends, that is only availablein retrospect. In addition to serving as a central site of self-knowledge, hindsight plays an integral role in the process of moral growth. For, through hindsight, there emerges the opportunity not only to see the possible errors of our ways but to transcend them and thereby to move on to better ways of being inthe world. Drawing on psychology, philosophy, literature, and personal experience, this wide-ranging volume offers an insightful and engaging exploration of the role of hindsight both in discerning the personal past and in deepening moral life.

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Although the idea of hindsight is frequently associated with the biases, distortions, and outright lies of memory - as in the infamous "20-20" scenario or the conviction that one "knew it all along" - Mark Freeman maintains that this process of looking backward over the terrain of the past canalso serve as a profound source of insight,...

Mark Freeman is Professor of Psychology and Dean of the Class of 2011 at the College of the Holy Cross, where he has also served as the W. Arthur Garrity, Sr. Professor in Human Nature, Ethics and Society. He is the author of Rewriting the Self: History, Memory, Narrative; Finding the Muse: A Sociopsychological Inquiry into the Condit...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 5.79 × 8.31 × 0.98 inPublished:January 14, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019538993X

ISBN - 13:9780195389937

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Table of Contents

Introduction. The Power of Hindsight1. Hindsight, Narrative, and Moral Life2. The Narrative Information3. Moral Lateness4. The Narrative Unconscious5. Narrative Foreclosure6. The Truth of Story7. The Good LifeCoda. Hindsight and BeyondBibliographic NoteReferencesIndex