Featured in The Absolute Choice by O.G. Rose

“Those Who Do Not Learn the Movement of Thought Are Doomed to Repeat It”

O.G. Rose
9 min readApr 2, 2024

Speculative thought following from “Ideas Are Not Experiences” by O.G. Rose

Frozen Glory Photography

It’s in Hegel and expressed in Alex Ebert’s “Fre(Q) Theory,” beyond the famous “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” schema that is incorrectly associated with Hegel (as already discussed in Thoughts by O.G. Rose), but here I wanted to speculate further that there might be “patterns” and “forms’ which the collective movement of thought tends to follow and fall into time and time again. I emphasize “speculative” though, for this particular line of thought is one I am only tentatively exploring at this point. I think there might be something to it, but I’m not completely sold on the details. More work must be done, and it might ultimately require a level of scholarship like we see in Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe — we’ll see.

We are taught that we must learn history to not repeat it, and yet it can also seem that studying history is to learn that we do not learn from history (as Hegel lamented). Why exactly this is the case could be tied to the reality that “ideas are not experiences” and that the majority are motivated by experiences more than ideas. Thus, when we read about “x being a mistake,” this is not the same as experiencing “x as a mistake,” and thus it is not as probable that we will fully believe “x was a mistake,” and hence we will be more vulnerable to repeating the mistake. Once though we experience what happens when we don’t store up food for winter (for example), then we will be more likely to take precautions in the future, whereas when we only know “it’s good to have backup food,” it’s not so likely we’ll actually take the step to spend the money and fill our cupboard. And once we experience the hardship of running out of food, it will be too late…

The Conflict of Mind expands on this argument, but generally the point is that mistakes tend to be repeated because ideas don’t motivate the average person as do experiences, and furthermore we can always come up with ideas for why “this time is different” (and the more brilliant we are, the more likely we might just be to come up with these rationalizations). What I aim to speculate on here briefly is the possibility that as “episodes of history” can repeat, perhaps according to the logic of “generations” as argued by Neil Howe, so too “forms of thought” might also repeat precisely again because “ideas are not experiences,” which is to say that when we come up with “new ideas,” we do not necessarily experience them as “formally repetitive” or participating in a structure that has already been underwent and tried. As a result, we might believe we are engaged in “new ideas” when really we are following a more repetitive sequence. In doing this, we might miss opportunities to “skip ahead,” aware of where thinking will likely end up, and begin trying to “think there” (or at least be aware of the counters which are likely to arise). At the same time, following Hegel, we cannot entirely escape Understanding even if we know of Reason, so “skipping ahead” is something that must be done time and time again (not once and done); furthermore, there is something about the human being which might simply have to make mistakes too learn. Hard to say, but even so, identifying a possible pattern might have value.

Philosophy, sociology, economics, politics, etc., are subjects and fields of thought, and as such they might all entail a “movement of thought.” In being perhaps the oldest field that people took with the upmost seriousness (to the point of death even), we might look to Theology to tell if there is indeed a “repeating pattern” that thought tends to follow, a pattern that we could then look to see if it also manifested in other fields. What do we see in Theology? Perhaps we might think of it as a focus on Idealism, then a reaction in favor of something more Material, then a return back to something universally Shared, and then ultimately a Decentralization where people are more allowed to live how they want. Religions can start with a focus on a Transcendent God, then there seems to be a reaction which stresses the need for the religion to be more focused on the political and earthly, placing emphasis on the Material world, to which there can be a reaction of a need to “return to Ideals,” a “return to Vision,” “a return to Theory,” or something similar. There is a stress on a need for people to Share something and be more together, beyond contingency, which can lead to a greater unity and centralization. But when this begins to feel oppression and like a social expectation, there can be a Decentralization into different states, tribes, denominations, and the like, and for a time these different groups can live alongside one another. Moral differences eventually arise though, and it seems like an injustice and evil for the other groups not to respond. There is then conflict and devastation, and from those “ruins” there can be a return to looking for the Ideal and Transcendent. And so “the movement of thought” repeats again, and Theology returns to an emphasis on “heavenly things” until the day comes when people feel dissatisfied with the lack of political and practical involvement…

Again, I stress, I might be entirely wrong about this formulation, but I’m interested in at least considering that there might be “movements of thought” which tend to repeat through history (just like “generational cycles”). Yes, we know of the “thesis, antithesis, synthesis”-schema, as there is also talk of “idea, negation, concretion” and “being, essence, and concept,” but I wonder if another framing might be considered. Generally, very tentatively, I might categorize these stages as:


The last category might be better as “Particularized” versus “Decentralized,” but I go back and forth. Anyway, to look at Political Philosophy, Rousseau and Hobbes are famous for their “states of nature” which functioned as “pure states” to determine human nature, which arose to philosophical movements that tried to add nuance and difference to both. Perhaps it was true that humans were well-off in nature, but they might have also been isolated; perhaps it was true that humans were savages outside society, but it could also be the case that humans were capable of great good. It all depended and was all contingent, but with this there then arose a sense that we couldn’t say anything at all about “human nature” and needed to leave it “a blank slate,” which gradually proved impossible and difficult to entertain. And so arose a reclaiming of “human nature” and a defense of the notion that humans have innate tendencies, but then who got to define and decide upon them? Couldn’t that lead to oppression? And so there has been a reactive “decentralization of human natures” according to tribes and groups which think “x is human nature” or “y is human nature,” which is great until one group believes it is one group’s “nature” to be superior to another, and so oppression and dominance start. There then can be a great conflict, destruction, and people return to “focusing on the Ideal” in order to cope and survive…

One day, there arises hope for a “new civilization” and “new world” that sets travelers on ships to sail across the sea to a new place that will be called “America,” and the people there are driven by Visions and Ideals of what might be possible according to religious freedom or simple adventure. Religious freedom can only get a people so far though, and so they can begin focusing on trade, building cities and governments, and eventually an entire “material condition” arises in which people can live and organize their lives. The people become practical, and Great Britian reacts strongly against America’s independence. America wins, but then it turns out the Articles of Confederation are too weak to hold the States together; more needs to be Shared. And so the Constitution is written, but then this Constitution is seen as needing to make space for the States. Decentralization occurs, but then some States employ slavery which is framed as immoral. There is a Civil War, and the country turns back to focusing on the Ideal of a Union to recover from the ruins. Capital, pragmatic and material, soon spreads and defines American shores…

Literature and story-telling can start as a depiction of gods and religion, providing “foundational myths” and stories that can help us know our place in the world. Gradually, stories can move from the realm of myth into the realm of lived experiences, daily life, heroic quests, and can become more about the lives and toils of a people. But then these stories lose some of their ability to inspire a people to be heroic, holy, and moral, and it can then be stressed that people need “moral tales” and visions to live and function in the world. Thus arises “Everyman tales” and a return to religious stories, though in a way that can center more on local people and their own lives. But then this feels like propaganda, and writers might “rebel” and start writing their own works according to their own individual experiences, feeling a need to express themselves beyond the binds of propaganda. But then literature devolves into mere “personal expression” and opinion, and story can lose some of the “impersonal structure” that holds it together. So similarly goes all art, and then there is a return “back to the craft” and hope for Ideals which participate in Great Art…

Economics can suggest there was once a state in which people could freely trade and follow their self-interests according to what they wanted or needed — there was once a “free market state of nature” that helped make the world wealthy and rich. But gradually the “unimpeded environment” unveiled that people made mistakes, and that we needed to “get more practical” and help the market run with the State. The State eventually messes up regulation (like in 2008) or use their power to enrich themselves, and so people can stress a need to “return to free markets,” a state in which people are not infringed upon by external sources. But then it is argued there has never really been a “free market,” that markets as a social “towardness” were created (say as argued by Karl Polanyi), and yet at the same time the State is hard to trust. And so there is a decentralization of economies into different nations and people, but when some economies fail and others gain in riches, and ultimately, perhaps between “economic visions” (like Capitalism and Communism), there is conflict and war. The violence is profound, and then there is a stress of a need to return to a Bigger Vision (like the free market), as suggested by Globalization and Neoliberalism.

And so on. Again, this is admittedly and notably a speculative work — everything I’ve written could be entirely wrong. Still, it strikes me as fascinating to consider if there are “patterns of thought’s movement” in the same way that there are seems to be “generational cycles” like described in Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The hope of this short work is simply to consider the possibility of this, though in the end perhaps the inquiry is entirely misguided. We see in Hegel a historical “movement of thought,” but we must ask if Hegel is describing a “repeating pattern” or a “progress?” Perhaps it is both, and if there is truth to the idea that we are currently stuck on the stage of Spirit and unable to advance into Religion (or that we have “fallen back” from Religion), as discussed often by Cadell at Philosophy Portal, then perhaps in each stage of the Phenomenological Journey there might be “a pattern of thought’s movement” that we find ourselves stuck in until we figure out a way to advance in the “Phenomenological Journey” and so undergo the cycle at a “higher level,” say in Religion or Absolute Knowing. I’m not sure, but the point is that there might be ways to think together “progress” and “repeating cycles,” where in each stage of the Phenomenological Journey we can find ourselves at risk of ending up stuck in a cycle, and yet at the same time there can be a progress where it’s better to “be stuck in the cycle” on the level of Religion versus Spirit. It’s hard to say.

In closing, this short work is titled “those who do not learn the movement of thought are doomed to repeat it,” but will much change even if we learn the movement of thought? Perhaps the title should be “those who do not learn…are doomed to repeat it ignorantly?” Isn’t ignorance bliss? Perhaps, but what can ignorance change? There’s always risk.




For more, please visit O.G. Rose.com. Also, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.



O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart. https://linktr.ee/ogrose