Universal History and the Problem of Time

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The establishment of universal history requires to be understood what time is •Time is the transformation of the future into past by the choices in the present •History should be grounded on that understanding of historical time, which would include the present and future rather than only the past

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Universal History the Problem of Time

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Vasil Penchev • Bulgarian Academy of Sciences: Institute for the Study of Societies of Knowledge • vasildinevgmail.com The 2015 Telos-Paul Piccone Institute Conference February 13–15 2015 New York NY

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The thesis: • The establishment of universal history requires to be understood what time is • Time is the transformation of the future into past by the choices in the present • History should be grounded on that understanding of historical time which would include the present and future rather than only the past

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History in tradition and universal history • History refers to the past in tradition i.e. to a limited and finite part of time which is past • Thus history refers immediately both to time and more exactly to the past • What is past can be even neglected speaking of the history of anything as some genus • Universal history can be understood as that genus

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The well-distinguished entities of the past • In the past there are a variety of well- distinguished entities such as states peoples civilizations and anything else • Each of them can possesses a proper history often inconsistent or partly consistent to all the rest • So the past seems to be irrelevant as the medium of universality for it is particular as to any item therefore suggesting that its history is particular and different from that of anything else

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A set of histories instead a single one • So the cherished universal history turns out to be a set of histories • That set of histories can be defined both by some common property and by the description of all unique histories one by one • History in tradition describes a set of unique histories of states or nations slightly linked to each other • One interpretation of universal history is it to understood as the set of all those descriptions

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The universal laws of history as the common property of all histories • One can research that set for universal or general laws instead of some collection of descriptions hardly linked to each other • Those laws can be in turn understood as the property featuring all members of the family implicitly meant as participants in universal history • Consequently universal history can be understood as some theoretical research of history finding a few fundamental laws or principles

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Logic of history and Reason in history • Thus history can be represented more or less as some logic of history or even as Reason in history after Hegel • Indeed all histories referring only to the past can be seen as a collection of well-orderings and thus as some general logic of historical processes • Hegel introduced the term of Reason in history to designate that logical and rational form of universal history suggesting action of some Reason in history

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The common future of all historical entities • In fact all entities such as states nations civilizations and all the rest is unified by their common present and future and distinguished by unique and single past • All this does not allow of other universal viewpoint than the logical one as above if history refers only to the past • The viewpoint to time as an unlimitedly extendable past supports the understanding of universal history or even of history as logic

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Time at all instead of only the past • Furthermore history can be seen as underlain by another understanding of time • It allows of generalizing the history from only the past to all time including the present and future • Then universal history can be naturally defined as the history referring to the present and future not less than to the past • Its core is the present only in which any choice can take place • The past is the result of those choices: One can say that the present is the cause of the past

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What is time • History as the ontology of time requires to be understood what time is • In turn time should be understand as a way relevant to history • In fact history happens only now in the present but it is always described as a past • Then time should be understand as a collision of two quite different media future and past • That collision is the present which manages to agree both different media to each other

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What time is • Time is the transformation of the future into past by the choices in the present • In fact the future is absolute unorderable and unforecastable both in principle and in general • On the contrary the past is absolute ordered more exactly well-ordered as well as absolute and even trivially forecastable as being unchangeable and known • The one which is able to agree them to each other is the choices of the present

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Historical time • History should be grounded on that understanding of historical time which would include the present and future rather than only the past • Indeed historical time should be understood as way of making history rather that historiographic time ascribing simply a certain date to any historical event • Consequently historical time is agrees and thus generalizes future and the past in the present • Thus it essence is choice i.e. the choices in the present

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Historical time vs. physical time • One can distinguish historical time from physical time in the base of their relation to each other and to the time itself • Historical time agrees future and the past by the mediation of the choices made in the present • Instead of that the past is what grounds physical time • Physical time extrapolates the modus of the past time as all time including furthermore the present and future

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Opposed features of the two times • Historical time unlike physical time is not continuous homogenous even or uniform • Even more it does not include all choices but a very very small part of them only crucial historical choice • However the criterion for a choice to be defined as a crucial historical one needs some clarification • It should support the unity of future and the past linking them in continuous way

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The points of historical choice • Historical time consists of the separate points of crucial historical choice • Consequently that “ crucial historical choice” should represents the wholeness of the historical process embodied in a single point • In fact the alternatives of the choice claiming to be both crucial and historical do not link the wholeness of the historical process in one and the same degree • One of them maybe different from the chosen one can support the “continuity of times”

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The wholeness of historical process and historical choice • Any single choice of those concentrates the wholeness of the historical process in order to be able to be chosen just that historical pathway which conserves that wholeness • Nevertheless this does not limit the made choice: • It can be historically wrong “tearing the times” and thus breaking this thread of history whether early or late

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Paul Tillich’s Kairos and Hronos • Paul Tillich has coined the term of Kairos for that ontological and historical time being opposed to “chronos” associated with physical time • Kairos is also the wholeness of theological time: • Thus Kairos means initially a fundamental choice which is able to ground both the wholeness of being and any crucial historical choice of peoples • On the contrary chronos means the “automatic continuity” of time independent of human choices and thus implied immediately on that single and fundamental choice of Kairos

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Between two choices ... • The discrete points of crucial choice are connected to each other by longer or shorter periods of continuous historical motion • The historical and physical time can be identified as coinciding in those periods: • Then both continuity and wholeness of the times are supported in an almost or rather automatic way not including crucial historical choices • History is identifiable as historiography but this is not ontology

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Longue durée • The discreteness of historical time generates “waves” of long runs Charles Pierce or “longue durées” Fernand Braudel and the Analles school • The period of each of them is different but much longer than the duration of human life • That “longue durée” should be categorically distinguished from the long periods between two historical choices • The “longue durée” originates from the discontinuity of historical choice • The long periods between two historical choices mean only their absence

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Conclusions: • History as the ontology of time: History as the ontology of the past time turns out to be a set of histories • In fact all entities such as states nations civilizations and all the rest is unified by their common present and future and distinguished by unique and single past • The Hegel logical viewpoint to history: All this does not allow of other universal viewpoint than the logical one as in Hegel

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Conclusions: • History of choice versus history of fact: • History can be underlain by that understanding of time which allows of generalizing the history from only the past to all time including the present and future • Then history as the ontology of time can be naturally defined as the history referring to the present and future not less than to the past • That kind of history can be defined both as history of choice as the ontology of time

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References: • Braudel F 1969 “Histoire et sciences socials. La longue durée 1” in: Braudel F. Ecrits sur l’his t oire. Paris: Flamarion 41—82. • Hegel G. W. F. 1837 Vorlesungen u ber die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte. Hamburg: F. Meiner 1968. • Tillich P . 1948 “Kairos” in Hauptwerke Bd. 4 Berlin – New York: De Gruyter 1987 327-341.

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Thank you for your kind attention

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