A History of Knowledge Assignment

A History of Knowledge Assignment

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Charles Van Doren develops compelling evidence concerning various issues surrounding the history of humans. The evidence provided concerning the history of the world is fascinating and informative. Anyone who comes across this book has an amazing experience and ends up having robust knowledge. Reading through the various chapter provided by Van Doren, it is easy to identify some of the big ideas Van Doren advances and thinks of them as not only compelling but also essential for the reader to understand. Although the whole book has multiple ideas, it is simple to seclude some of these ideas and dissect them to identify how Van Doren thinks of them as either important or noteworthy A History of Knowledge Assignment.


One of the big ideas that stood out was human sacrifices that were part of the first chapter of the book. Van Doren notes that sacrifices are and were important aspects of human history. He goes ahead to give an account of the various sacrifices offered in human history, and he specifically addresses human sacrifices, which is interesting, particularly because human sacrifice is unheard of today. Van Doren notes that in most cases, a sacrificial object was either an animal such as an ox or ram, which were used for a divine purpose. People offered sacrifices for strength, and whenever they required the gods to do something for them. According to Van Doren, human sacrifices originated from agricultural people, but was rarely practiced by hunters and gatherers. An account of the groups involved in offering human sacrifices is provided, such as Chinese and Japanese. Victims of sacrifice were often dressed in garments classified as magnificent and were also adorned with jewels as a way of sending the human sacrifice to the gods in glory. The sacrifices were beautified because people valued their gods and wanted to offer only the best to appease them. Based on the account provided by Van Doren, it is evident that Van Doren values this information and believes it is important in the account of human history. The words used when providing this account show the stress and emphasis placed on human sacrifices. For example, Van Doren uses phrases such as fundamental and ubiquitous when describing religious rituals. Instead of using such words, Van Doren could have chosen to use other words. Nevertheless, they would not have brought out the idea that Van Doren wanted to pass to the reader.

While portraying the idea of sacrifices as vital to human history, Van Doren ensures that the target audience understands that the act of human sacrifice was not a good idea. While doing so, he ensures the reader has a mental image of how human sacrifices were offered by fully describing how they were dressed in the best clothes and jewels before being offered to the gods. The word structure and choice of words used is evidence enough that Van Doren does not approve of the use of humans for sacrifices but instead approves the use of animals for sacrifice. A biblical account of Abraham and Isaac is provided to show Christians that sacrifices are part of human history and go back in time to when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son by God.

Different Accounts of Religions

Van Doren is very extensive in his research and provides an in-depth explanation concerning different religions in history and most of which exist today. Judaism and Christianity are compared over a small section that provides insightful information. When providing the comparison, Van Doren explains the differences in ways that show the need to understand these differences. For example, Van Doren notes that the Jewish God is angry and has justice as his mark, whereas the Christian God is angry and merciful. This shows the dire need to understand the similarities and differences because many people often confuse the Jewish religion with the Christian religion, yet they are different in many ways. The bible has many instances recording how Jews behaved, leading people to think the two are the same.

An account of the development of Islam is provided extensively, beginning with the birth of Islam in Mecca. Muhammad is a notable figure among the Muslims, and Van Doren gives a brief history of him. While reading this history, a reader can easily understand why Van Doren had to use Muhammad to describe the Islamic religion. Muhammad is a pillar of the Islam religion, and there is no telling the origin of Islamic religion without focusing on Muhammad. The main intention of Van Doren in his book is to provide an account of the notable aspects of human history, and addressing different religions, providing brief explanations is part of human history. Where necessary, comparisons are made, such as the comparison between Judeo-Christian and Islam religion. Buddhism is also explained in the text. It is impossible to be a theologian without identifying and appreciating the presence of other religions. Based on the explanations provided by Van Doren, ignorance has no place in people’s lives, which is why they should learn about all relevant religions and how they came to be because these religions define individuals A History of Knowledge Assignment.

The Problem of Thales

This is one of the big ideas presented by Van Doren. History is made of numerous notable figures such as Plato and Aristotle. While addressing the problem of Thales, Van Doren introduces his audience to Democritus, who was a philosopher like Plato. Before offering the solution to the problem of Thales, Van Doren uses rhetorical questions. The use of these rhetorical questions shows the importance of the problem of Thales and the solution to be offered. These questions, leave a reader thinking about what would have happened based on the context. For example, Van Doren asks what would have happened if the books by Democritus were never lost. Such a question shows the importance of Democritus in history, despite many people having little to no knowledge about him. The problem of Thales and the solution offered is tackled by addressing the philosopher such as Plato and Aristotle, who devised solutions. The provision of multiple solutions concerning this problem shows that it is one issue, a reader should not take off because if the problem and the solution were not important in history, a brief account would have been availed.


Van Doren covers a lot in his book. Most of the information provided may be considered new to the readers. The information is fascinating and interesting, especially the accounts provided by those historical aspects that are not well known to people. Some of the big ideas tackled by Van Doren include sacrifices such as human sacrifices, an account of different religions, and the problem of Thales. The way Van Doren addresses these issues shows how important they are in history.


Van Doren, Charles Lincoln. A History of Knowledge: Past, present, and future. Random House Digital, Inc., 1992 A History of Knowledge Assignment.