Philosophy of History: A Guide for Students

Philosophy of History: A Guide for Students

Philosophy of History: A Guide for Students

Philosophy of History: A Guide for Students

Synopsis

Philosophy of History is an essential introduction to a vast body of writing about history, from classical Greece and Rome to the modern world. M.C. Lemon maps out key debates and central concepts of philosophy of history, placing principal thinkers in the context of their times and schools of thought. Lemon explains the crucial differences between speculative philosophy as an enquiry into the content of history, and analytic philosophy of history as relating to the methods of history. The first two parts of the book trace each of these traditions, whereas the third part revisits both in the light of recent contributions to the discipline.This guide provides a comprehensive survey of historical thought since ancient times. Its clear terminology and lucid argument will make it an invaluable source for students and teachers alike.

Excerpt

This book has a dual purpose. Primarily I hope to introduce the subject 'philosophy of history' to those history students, academics, and teachers who may to varying degrees be unfamiliar with an extensive branch of writings relating to their discipline. Nowadays such relative unfamiliarity is commonplace amongst historians. There are at least two (related) reasons for this - first, a claustrophobic compartmentalisation of disciplines, certainly in the Anglo-American world, where professional pressures tend towards narrow discipline bases - and second, specifically in historians, an air of indifference towards 'philosophy of history', either as an example of such compartmentalisation, or as a more deliberate stance emanating from some unfortunate encounter with philosophy, best forgotten. Such diffidence may be justified, but only on the basis of some familiarity with 'philosophy of history' - and a principal purpose of this 'guide' is to furnish precisely that.

This book, then, is offered as an historians' guide, but not because the ideas of our philosophers of history are, patronisingly, to be simplified because of 'fear' of philosophy - rather, because within the extensive literature of 'philosophy of history' it concentrates more on what might interest historians than philosophers. And as for being a guide, again the intention is not to condescend, but rather to map out what, with respect to even one of its two branches, has rightly been called 'a boundless land' of 'semi-monstrous' proportions.

A secondary purpose of this 'guide' relates more urgently to the contemporary nature of historical study, for it is under attacks sourced precisely from the two branches of philosophy of history, namely, 'speculative' and 'analytic'. First, from recent signs of a revival in 'speculative' philosophy of history which, as we shall see, tries to construct some kind of 'universal history' of the world (the rise and decline of great states, empires, and cultures), complaints have arisen that modern historians have lost that sense of the grand sweep of time - that their writings are narrowly focused specialist studies, more akin to the mentality of 'antiquarians' or 'laboratory workers' than efforts to make sense of the unfolding of human history. Some even go so far as to suggest that 'history' proper is disappearing from schools and universities, replaced by a mish-mash of controversial contemporary 'social' studies ranging over ethnic, gender, and other ideological concerns, leaving

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