The philosophy of history researches the questions ‘What is every story about in general?’ and ‘What is the reason of occurrences?’. The answer is a fundamental narration which is the framing story (context) of all other stories (episodes). Without such narration life would fall apart into unrelated episodes and all episodes would fall apart into unrelated moments. The rejection of ‘history’ is the rejection of mankind’s ‘common faith’ and the ‘meaning of life’ (the desire for values and the search for values). Therefore ‘history’ is rejected only in exceptional cases (e.g. by those against change, by the defenders of ‘status quo’), it is rather that the different versions of the framing story are debated. Nevertheless, a universally comprehensive narrative is both methodologically and politically problematic.
Agnosticism says that we cannot have undistorted experience because our perception and sensitivity filters the world and therefore we cannot know how the world exists ‘in-itself’, independent from us (Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804), neither can we access the totalness of places and times, therefore we always get a fragmented and imperfect picture of the world and the stories (Thomas Huxley 1825 – 1895).
Relativism says that all approaches and conclusions are dominated and limited by random circumstances and that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cannot be distinguished (Pyrrho, ca. 365 – ca. 275 B.C.). According to the scientific historical form of these arguments, historically relative and limited situations form pictures about historically relative and limited situations, therefore a historically very limited, partial and distorted experience filters all possible data and describes the infinity of the non-experienceable times.
The reason why these objections do not confuse the majority is quite possibly because they feel that these only warn us about the traps of premature conclusions and remind us to be careful, but they cannot prevent us from forming opinions after all. The impossibility of a perfect theory is not a problem as long as we can improve our theories with logicality and investigation. The real problem is that the suspension of forming conclusions disables articulation, communication, reasoning, and evaluation, therefore extreme agnosticism and relativism ultimately lead to violence.
Surrendering and avoiding logics results in relativizing cynicism which eventually produces the opposing extremity of the mythologizing mysticism. Between the two deeply self-contradictory procedures is the middle way of the critical approach.
Chronological orientation and historical facts are important only in order to understand chronological consequences. The chronological line becomes logical by having direction and causality (cause-effect relationship). Everything is an effect of certain causes and a cause of certain effects. The events have to proceed towards somewhere whether they reach it or not. History does not exist without teleology (‘final-purpose-ness’).
The three explanations of teleology, namely the three possibilities of description are as follows.
A. „cynicism” (nihilistic – the rejection of teleology)
- rejects the idea of ‘progression’
- anti-change-ist, relativistic, episodical, disoriented, apologetic
- all is equally meaningless (and undangerous).
This is a modern historical approach. It presupposes and rejects all forms of the approach of ‘progression’. It is the liberal (neoliberal) and conservative (neoconservative) rejection of the ‘dialectics of enlightenment’. Its clearest form is the ‘postmodern’ (from the 1970s). It emerges from the arguments against the aggressive and autocratic utopianism of the illuminati, jacobins, utopian socialists and the communists.
B. „criticism” (reformist – the teleology of freedom)
- assumes an endless progression based on the principle and logics of change
- changer, truth desiring, critical, sceptical, value oriented
If the final purpose is an approximatable, but unreachable ideality, then we call it a principle, which organizes occurrences and it is effectual as logics in the changes. The idea of ‘open progress’ is value centred and self reflexive because it also pays attention to its own historic progression. It is also sensitive to freedom and transiency, therefore it considers the uniqueness, contingency and fragmentedness of the things to be important. It is value oriented unselfishness.
This is a modern approach of history. Its existence is conditional to the ‘progression’ principle of the Enlightenment and the debates related to it, but most importantly to the existentialist critique of the perceptions and the concepts of existence and time.
C. „mysticism” (fatalist – the teleology of destiny)
- assumes a finite progression until a definite destiny
- anti-changeist, mythical, utopian, dogmatic, autocratic
- all is equally meaningful as a necessary element of the story.
If the final purpose is a reachable state, then we call it destiny that directs history towards itself and dominates over everything as a supreme power. The idea of ‘destiny’ defines every scene within a closed story and is nonhistoric because it disregards its own historic relativity. The story of ‘destiny’ initially emerges from the need for a final frame story (narrative), but the more ‘final’ it is the more inflexible it becomes in the managing of the actual problems. Ultimately, it supplies not the solving of problems but its own preservation and survival. Fatalism proclaims a preordinate ‘goodness’ and ‘evilness’ (‘chosenness’) that are independent from everything. It is a narcissistically self-purposed and alienated theory about changes that aims to justify the status quo of the actual power balance.
The science of history does not explain laws and does not attempt to make prognoses. Therefore the majority of natural scientists do not regard it as a science. Today’s ‘history’ is considered to be some kind of collective memory and conscience rather than a model of a system that is proven by data sequences and defined in mathematic functions. Only the well quantifiable economic history and the related economic sciences attempt to create historic models, cycle theories, and prognoses (e.g. in futurology). Because of the lack of data sequences, however, the historic horizon of trend researches is very narrow. It would of course be groundless and unnecessary to extend inductive (experience based) models to distant eras that are beyond the reach of experience. Only a deductive model (deducted from the universal logic of change) could naturally refer to the wholeness of history. Presently social science’s chaos research is the closest to this model. But from the previous paragraphs it is also obvious that ‘history’ needs a context (a purpose) in the first place and that the basic story (narration) would be the chasing/achieving of that value.
The fundamental question of the philosophy of history is therefore what value history is about. Which value is the purpose? Nowadays’ history is not up to this level yet. We are still stuck with the dilemma of whether life is about violence or values. The search for history by all means indicates a deeper kind of sensitivity than the rejection of it because it makes us aware of our other-centeredness, just like metaphysics and religions. The (not always scientific philosophical) debates regarding the definition of ‘history’ are of determining importance. The one(s) defining this comprehensive story is (are) the one(s) to define orientation, language, approach, values and meanings, therefore is (are) the one(s) to control public opinion, common talk and therefore who ultimately possesses the power.
Episodic thinking is already history-telling and mythological thinking already distinguishes the visible (everyday like) and the knowable, essential (sacred) times and stories. The sacred story that happens in sacred time is ‘meaningful’, because it expresses a value and because it leads somewhere, therefore it is teleological (purpose-posing). The everyday happenings are contingent and are without meaning in themselves and it is the sacred time of the sacred story that articulates and explains them. Initially the cyclic teleologies that were based on the cycles of seasons were typical everywhere (e.g. Hinduism), but with the emergence of the ‘last judgement’ myths linear teleologies also appeared (e.g. Judaism). By the 6th century B.C. a social need was born to record those everyday events that were important from the aspect of power struggle. Herodotus (5th century B.C.) separates ‘meaningless’ (common, ordinary) and ‘meaningful’ (specific, extraordinary) everyday events and searches for the causal-effectual reasons of the Greco-Persian conflict. Nevertheless, both the sacred and the common approach of history remain ethnocentric and only the sacred approach distinguishes eras (e.g. it explains declining and revival in the form of ‘Golden’, ‘Silver’, ‘Copper’, and ‘Iron’ ages).
All of the eras are comparable by a higher measure, but no era can be a measure of another. Whichever era measures the others by itself simply rejects change (both its own and the universal).
An episode of a limited decline could still fit into the context of evolution, although an explication of its appearance and ending would be essential.
The general problem with the myth of ‘declining’ that is extended to the whole of history is the same as with that of the ‘Golden Age’ myth. The tree is known by its fruit therefore an era resulting in worse eras cannot be essentially better.
It is beyond dispute that conspiracies do exist and some of them was/has been sustained by many generations throughout continents and centuries. Quite a number of them have been explored and publicized with time. Nevertheless, no single conspiracy could control history and the world as there are both theoretical and logical limits of a conspiracy that attempts to cover the entire history.
Control over the environment can never be total as (1) no single participant can be enough clear about itself and its own automatisms, (2) the processing of incoming data cannot keep the pace with the simultaneously running, but not yet discovered progressions and with the progressions that are being caused by its (the processing’s) own exploration and interference, and (3) nobody is able to focus on each and every possible direction at the same.
Power struggle is inseparably intertwined with countless conspiracies to which we sacrifice not a little of our time. Nevertheless, apart from the fact that one specific group, although in limited space and time, may be able maintain control over another for a relatively long time, nobody can control the entire evolution because those who take the evolution-control seriously are essentially preoccupied with their own self progression.