Culture and History: Prolegomena to the Comparative Study of Civilizations

Culture and History: Prolegomena to the Comparative Study of Civilizations

Culture and History: Prolegomena to the Comparative Study of Civilizations

Culture and History: Prolegomena to the Comparative Study of Civilizations

Excerpt

The 'philosophy of history' is the term customarily used to designate those general and somewhat vague speculations about the pattern and meaning of historical events in which historians, philosophers and even theologians occasionally indulge. As the term itself shows, this is a branch of human thought which has not yet emerged from the womb of philosophy; it has not yet become a separate science or intellectual discipline with its own concepts and its own rules. Like psychology a hundred years ago or physics before Aristotle, it has remained essentially a branch of philosophy, speculative rather than empirical in its approach, closely dependent on metaphysical presuppositions rather than on observations of fact.

The term 'philosophy of history' is also sometimes used to refer to the study of the nature of historical knowledge and of the methods of historical explanation. This usage is similar to, and may have been formed in imitation of, the expression 'philosophy of science'; it covers what might technically be called historical epistemology and historical logic. This is a fairly recent development, however, and need not concern us here. For our purposes, we may confine the term to the older and more limited sense of general speculations about historical events--historical metaphysics, so to speak.

More often than not, philosophers of history have concerned themselves primarily with the problem of evil; their generalizations have had more the character of moral judgments than of . . .

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