means, ends and justifications of historiography
I think, I have already made enough statements about what is history as a craft and and as events of past, or what is the nature of historiography or epistomological philosophy of historiography and other distinctive aspects of these studies which differs in their approaches and their chosen subjects. I tried to define clearly the different approaches to these historical studies describing each one with some abstract and concise statements; without giving explanatory examples, since I could not go deeper into the details. But now, I have to make some jurisdictive judgements about the means, ends and justifications about these studies, despite the fact that this kind of abstract descriptions could be more boring, since I will be forced to remind and repeat some of the aforesaid judgements or descriptions. I have to state my judgemens on the means and ends of these studies at this very moment; because, afterwards, I will try to explain the reasons of my dissatisfaction with the former philosophies of history. And again, I have to criticize and re-evaluate the results of those speculative interpretations of historical events. I have to explore and open a new way to the frontiers of history, if possible, for a new quest. I knew beforehand that, if I wish to change and renew this subject of study, then I am forced to make many more repeated adjustmens here and there in the process of evaluating the subject, nevertheless while re-evaluating again the means, ends and justifications of historiography. I may be repeating myself little bit more. As if, “thought advances by the correction of corrections by correction.” Quoth Douglas Templeton
But to be sure, when I begin to speak about philosophy of history later on, and thenceforth I have to leave this descriptive style instantly, since then, we will make a very enchanting voyage – this quest would begin not as a space exploration as used to be but a captivating travel in time itself.
As it is clear, historians are not able to observe or experience any particular event of past time, since they cannot make time-travel. They can observe and study only some evidences of the past events: they are historical relics which remained by chance in spite of the turbulent events of times. All their attested judgements based on the testimony of these silent and dumb witnesses as the relics of past events. They try to extract and construct a historical knowledge deducing their propositions from these sources of information. They cannot experience, but only deduce propositions making some inferences from the supposedly reliable and evidential character of these historical dumb witnesses. Then they articulate their judgement as a proposition that this evidence can signify to a real event of past time: Apparently, one cannot know for sure, what was the reason for this event. Historical remnants resembles merely to the footprints of a traveller which is left behind.
But historical remnants are material objects and exist in present time. It might be a subject of scientific investigation since it stands before our eyes at the present moment, it is not only observable, but also testable and can be analyzied objectively befitting for every scientific means; but what does it signifies to as to be related to the past events is something else. To be sure it has a reason of its existence, but what? This aspect of historiography could be regarded as a science since historical documents and other relics can be studied by scientific means. They are real materials which exist in present time and belongs to it, though they remained from the past. Then historical documentation and to study these historiographic materials in themselves is a science by definition.
And the philosophy of historiography means to interpret and understand what they mean and what meaning they can convey from the past: And it is Philosophy since it involves epistemology: i.e., we have to discuss the reliability of these evidences or epistemological validity of the inferences we have deduced from them. And I suppose, semantically, this could be accepted as truely signifiying a meaning which it conveys about a real thing, concerning past-time, but is it reliable? What meanings we can decipher from this document, as if we are reading some news reported by a newspaper?
But to narrate and retell the reached conclusions of this study is an art. Therefore historiography is also an art as a craft of narration: then, it is an art, a science and a philosophy at the same time. I have no reason to object to these aspects of history; though I can discern some defects in each three aspects of historiography too, though this not of our concern yet. But be aware of confusion, historians occasionally say that history is an art or a science: one might get confused and mixed up the subjects. You should understand that what they mean is historiography not history itself: This is the nature of historiography, that is, the craft about history, not history itself. They are distinct subjects as much as the actor and the video of an actor, although, unfortunately, a historical narration cannot enliven the history as much as the fidelity of a video; since we cannot have a sufficient knowledge of it.
That is, our knowledge of history as investigated, imagined and written by a historian, is named habitually history, but this might be a bit confusing; since, in this case, you would be using the word history in this second sense of the word and mean only what is known about history as far as possible to be written by humanity. Then one influential historian says history is a science, e.g. Colingwood, and another one says, it could be only an art as a narrated story of the past. This is why I am forced to repeat what is already known and only natural about the nature of History-craft, but History in its first sense is something else. What is more, though the beginnings of this distinction seems small and easily understandable; the result is a real confusion which has been a subject of discussion even among professional historians. We get confused naturally since one name should not be used to signify two difererent things at the same time. I have to remind that “The Naming” is an interesting subject much debated in semantics. I remember here an interesting verse from Old Testament about ‘what is signified by a naming’, when Moses asks ‘what name should he give to God when he go to the peopleto tell his orders’:“Dixit Deus ad Mosen: ‘ego sum qui sum.’ Ait, “sic dices filiis Israhel: ‘qui est’ misit me ad vos.’ ” God said to Moses Exodus: 3/14. Thus speak to the Sons of Israel that the one who sent me to you (when inquired about the name) says “I am that I am.” I will name history in this fashion: “it is what it is.” History itself means past time as events of past time.
As aforesaid, Immanuel Kant states that we cannot know the “thing in itself”. We can not know neither names (nomina) nor ‘noumenon’ we know only phenomens (which means in one sense events). As Lao Tzu stated, “the name that can be named is not the eternal name.” This is why I love the saying, “ego sum qui sum: Iam that I am” as the best naming of God. We think by the usage of “names” (nomina) “Ve alleme ademe‘l-esmâe küllehâ”: And He imparted unto Adam all the names of all things. Quran, Bakara/31. And here is the commentary made by Muhammed Esed: “The term ism (‘name’) implies, according to all philologists, an expression ‘conveying the knowledge [of a thing] … applied to denote a substance or an accident or an attribute, for the purpose of distinction’ (Lane IV, 1435): in philosophical terminology, a ‘concept’. From this it may legitimately be inferred that the ‘knowledge of all the names’ ” The Holy Quran. Still, a name/‘nomen’ is just like a ‘noumenon’ (which means what is thought of, and comes not from Latin nomen but from the Greek Nous, it is like “idea”)and it cannot be known in itself. We should pay more attention when we name something and remember that according to the Old Testament, God did not make any naming, as the name of God to Moses, but only said “ego sum qui sum”/I am that I am</e m>. A metaphor in which lies a hidden meaning (we call it “mazmun” in Turkish literature) could be very useful to explain how we think. We name things and think they are not only signified but also defined by that name.“Structure can be considered as a complex of relations, and ultimately as multi-dimensional order. From this point of view, all language can be considered as names for unspeakable entities on the objective level, be it things or feelings, or as names of relations.“Quoth Korzybski.
But if you remember that the names (nomina) could be regarded as universals then you have to remember those discussions of Nominalism against universals, and that phrase as “I cannot see the idea of horse” together with the aforementioned Universal versus Particular arguments; then, you will excuse the statement I am going to make: “I cannot see the history,” but I can conceive the individual historical events even though I cannot explain them too. What we can see is the ‘historiographical materials’ which lies before our eyes in present time. In fact, no one can see or experience history: it has passed away. If we remember and paraphrase St. Jerome’s statement; “videmus per speculum” thenceforth, ‘we have a partial and enigmatic awarenes of events, so we cannot know for sure what is happening around us even in this very present moment too.’
Of course historiography may speak about past time; but I have to repeat myself here again that, ‘what it says only an evidential guess’; at first, the propositions of historical writings are all inferred and deduced from historical relics; then imagined and reconstructed in a consciousness of a historian according to his standpoint and perspective; and at last told within a historical narrative according to the chosen principles and rules of a narration. All historiographical materials exist in present-time, so they are testable as the objects of a scientific inquiry and they called confusingly as history (which should be named as historiography); in short, history is a science in this regard. The second step of this craft as the epistemological discussions of the deduced proposisions (from the relics of history) and reliability of those results as the imaginatively reconstructed knowledge of past events is also called history, but in fact it is an epistemology, an unqualified philosophy of historiography: History is surely an epistemological philosophy in this second sense of the name. And the third step of narrating historical events is surely an art of storytelling. This is why some histortians say, it is an art. To be sure history is an art in this third sense of the naming. Post modernists go further and say that this historical narration might not be different from pure fiction (like historical novels) as much as we imagined. You can articulate all three judgements about history: i.e.. history is an art; history is a science, or history is a philosophy; if you mean by this naming “history” as it is used in the second sense for historiography, since it uses all these three methods of inquiry and encompasses all of them as different aspects of this craft. But what is ‘named’ could be very different from the ‘name’ or the “naming”. These are the so named history as “res gestae”: things done or accomplishments of historian’s as historiography. It is a “mixtum compositum”, dubious at best.
But what this name “history” signifies and denotes as ‘History in itself’ means Past-Time; it means what actually happened in Time. History in this real sense of the ‘naming‘ does not mean what historians think and write about history, but rather it is the events of time itself: past, perfect, completed and unchangeable time. Every historian can imagine those past events according to his own standpoint and narrate a different story of it, corresponding to his perspective and his taste. To be sure it is not history itself but it is a historian’s story of his own imagination, history in this second sense is necessarily told conforming to historian’s own standpoint, according to his personal judgement and vision, or say, history as it is seen from the historian’s windows, perspective, whatsoever. That story may be a telltale about the historian’s limited knowledge and worldview, but it definitely isn’t history by definition. There is not and cannot be any undebatibly real story of past time.At most, there can be a story about past time events as far as it is conceived by a historian; it is his fragmentary story of the some past events and cannot be the whole and actual story the past time. His story is neccessarily molded to be a fragmentary and mostly unqualified, unconvincing and incomprehensible story of some individual and unique events.
I will say it is so, again by definition. If you speak about the story of time and what actually happened in history, then I say, it is unfathomable -we can not even imagine that we are able to imagine history. Most of theese past events are lost for ever like forgotten dreams which are not remembered at all. And yet, all of the historical relics even all of this world and everything else are only remnants of that past time. Though unimaginably rich in content, these remnants are nearly nothing if you compare them withal the past time and its infinite number of events. It is beyond the power of human imagination. And yet, a historian’s knowledge cannot even encompasses the heritage of all historiography; it is also impossible to learn all that knowledge of historiography which are also incomprehensible since they conceived as “individuum”. Hence, in both sense of the naming, history is beyond the imagination of any human being.
Hic iacet istoria: here lies history; passed away long time ago and dead for ever.
So what? What is the conclusion of this definition of history? History itself, that is the actual events of past time, though they have left some footprints for the present, unknowable by definition, one can never know History in itself, nor imagine to know. What can be known exactly and scientifically is only infinitesimally small and fragmentery relics of those events, as if countless footprints has remained till this moment from the innumerable travellers of the past times. We had no idea who had left these footprints, how they had lived, what they had thought and what had happened actually. I remember here the famous lamentations of Imre al-Kays: He saw in the desert the footprints of a passed clan and guessed from the left relics that possibly his beloved was also there, articulated his feelings as such in the first Muallaqat: “Kıfâ nebki min zikrâ habibin ve menzili”: Stop, oh my friends, let us pause to weep over the remembrance of my beloved. Here was her abode on the edge of the sandy desert between Dakhool and Howmal,
The traces of her encampment are not wholly obliterated even now…”
So we have a very small amount of some fragmentary knowledge of past owing to these footprints which stands for the historiographic materials. These footprints would be deciphered and interpreted by a historian, which reminds me Imre el Kays; the position and lamentations of a desert poet. It was clear that a caravan of his beloved girl’s clan had passed from that dune. Imret al kays could infer this knowledge from the footprints with the use of his expertise and imagination. Thus far, but what else? What else he could decipher from the left footprints about what actually happened while his beloved was travelling in the desert? How on earth and why? And I have to repeat that no one is able to learn and master all of these historiographical footprints either, since it also amounts to countless mountains of books and relics that beyond the power of any human ability.
If so, then no one can ever handle to master all of the historiographic knowledge, despite the fact that this enormously large knowledge should be regarded as an infinitesimally small part comparing to what happened in the real history. Real and full knowledge of the History itself is naturally impossible to imagine, but even to encompass the knowledge of historiography is also unimaginable. Then no one is able to know either history or historiography; what I wished to clarify is that only a very small part of historiography, is possible to be learned and only by a specialist historian. “The scientific specialist who knew more and more about less and less and the philosophical speculator who knew less and less about more and more,” quoth Will Durant.
I have spoken enough in the style of high level abstractions; to clarify the nature of this craft: It might be illuminative to make use of some metaphorical examples:
A traffic accident happens. People call for traffic police. If there is no personal injury and if drivers can make an agreement between themselves about the insurance and who pays for repairments of cars, etc. then the problem would be resolved on the scene of accident and it would be a forgotten accident. But if somebody died or injured seriously then the police must write a report and tell the story -in short statements, preparing the evidences as a police report for the later jurisdiction of lawyers describing how and why the accident occurred. He will draw a graphic to illustrate the accident recording the drivers velocity, angle and position of the cars at the moment of accident. I am not going to tell all the details of the traffic accident since we all have some experience with traffic accidents. Suppose a historian of next centuries will find out the police graph of a traffic accident – be aware, no cars will be used anymore in the next century – that report of traffic accident which is found by the next century historian could be treated as a very valuable historical relic and a source of information about that historical car accident -though this accident was so insignificant that the drivers who experienced it wished to forget it instantly.
Compare that report of the accident to the narratives of medieaval chronicles. It really is a historiographical material as a remnant of a past time event: the report would not be destroyed but remained by chance until found by a future historion by chance again. The report of the policeman is a simile for the narration of a historian which is about a past event. Remember every event is an accident; event literally means accident since every event happens contingently and accidentally in time. Judges and lawyers who investigate the accident stands for the historian. The proceedings of the court, and the related documents which could be overbearingly increased, all resemble the historiographical literature. The judgement of the public prosecutor stands for the philosophy of historiography and the final jurisdiction of the judge stands for the philosophy of history.
I have to add that if a court decides that it does not have enough evidence to judge for the crime, the final judgement is suspended and the accused person is relieved of the punishment. If there is not strong evidence then no judgement is possible, and consequently no punishment. I remember a recent sample of the legal court documents about the prosecution of Ergenekon and Balyoz which amounted millions of pages. You may accept it as a simile for the literature of historiography. They could be treated as historiographical materials though an infinitesimally small part of it. This example stands for the impossibility of studiying the whole bulk of histroriographical literature. That means, it is not possible to know the history as it happens in its own actuality. It is also not possible to imagine that this kind of knowledge could be known by any human being. Only God knows what actually happened in the past. What have remained, studied and narrated by historians amount to countless books which can easily fill all the libraries of this world. No one can study the historiographic literature as a whole. Only a partial knowledge of history is possible and only for a specialist historian. No historian can judge about what he tells except he happens to be specialized on that very fragment of history. A historian can judge about the historiographical value of a work written by another historian, but only from some standards of the craft and by the telltale signals of the craftsmanship which is evident by its style and perfectness of the produced work. That means nearly, no one is able and allowed to speak about history.
Those are the means of historiography:
Those are the means of historiography; to make a historical research, to find evidences of the past events and to evaluate them. Later on, historian has to imagine the flow of events in history, that is, how could it be possible that the river of events have been formed and taken a special river-bearing for the course of events which might have been flowed. It is so hard to describe this awakened dream of consciousness – this self deceptive imagination of historian – that I cannot help but repeat that strong statement of the Antiquarian’s view of history, “sans aultre preuve que de simples conjectures dece qui pouvoit avoir este”: “it is only a guess, simply a conjectured belief without proof, since we can conceive that it was possible to occur (as implied by our imagination); then, presumably in any case, it really had happened so.” But be aware of this fact also: Momigliani did not give the translation of this french sentence. The translation is mine despite the fact that I do not know French, but I wanted to Quote that satatement to be used here, in this context. Right now, I cite this example because I think it stands for another meaningful metaphor for the position of a historian: in this case it is me, because I actually do not know and cannot understand what is said in French language but I tried to imagine what he could said about the nature of historical study; and I simply made a conjectured belief without proof that he could say so actually; and since it is conceivable that he could say so as I have imagined, then presumably he said so in fact in french. I translated that sentence believing that it really meant this. Because I knew what is the nature of history by experience, and by the same token, I will not deny the help of my very superficial knowledge of Latin language here, but nevertheless it was a conjectured belief of me that he should say so. ‘Ex parte prophetamus’ and in part we prophetize, to foreshow events, from my partial and very superficial knowledge of Latin. I also believe strongly that my translation might be a little awkwardly stated one in english; awkward in style but very faithful indeed to the implied meaning of that french sentence; otherwise I would not quote that sentence. It is possible for you to compare the translation to the original if you know French. This translation was a guesswork just like history indeed. The real historical event happened centuries ago, as an Antiquarian said so in french and my translation happens to be like the written historiographical imagination about what in fact was the implied meaning of that sentence.
That is, a historical event could be, at most, an ‘imaginatively constructed and believed’ explanation of a historian. There remains only this ‘ratio credentis’: we might believe a historian on the basis of his professional authority.
What are the ends aimed by historiography?
It is to narrate illustratively in a proper form what might have been discovered about history by the research and imagination of historians as meaningfully stated by the aforesaid Antiquarian.
they try to learn and retell the facts and events of history
What could be the Justifications of the historiography?
Historians always try to write history as they imagine: that is, they try to change the past according to their wishful thinking and ideology. This is also a ridicilous and whimsical wish that they try to convince some people according to their imagined version of the story of the past. A historical evidence cannot give any sufficient and necessary reason to prove that the indicated event is true, merely for the reason of being reported and described by it: although it might seem a strong evidence, there could be no ‘ratio veritatis’, not any proven justification that ‘the event’ had occurred ‘definitely as it has been told’ by that official document, witness, historian or whatsoever. We can always suspect and deny its reliability.
And what could imagine a historian about historical events while trying to decipher some partial informations from those fragmentary documents? This resembles the aforementioned situatian: why one should try to read a text, if he does not know the language in which it is written? Remember mine reading of the antiquarian’s sentence, without knowing french language. Here is a beatiful metaphor told by Coleridge in the same manner:
“Imagine the unlettered African, or rude yet musing Indian, poring over an illumined manuscript of the inspired volume, with the vague yet deep impression that his fates and fortunes are in •one unknown manner connected with its contents. Every tint, every group of characters has its several dream. Say that after long and dissatisfying toils, he begins to sort, first the paragraphs that appear to resemble each other, then the lines, the words—nay, that he has at length discovered that the whole is formed by the recurrence and interchanges of a limited number of cyphers, letters, marks, and points, which, however, in the very height and utmost perfection of his attainment, he makes twenty fold more numerous than they are, by classing every different form of the same character, intentional or accidental, as a separate element. And the whole is without soul or substance, a talisman of superstition, a mockery of science: or employed perhaps at last to feather the arrows of death, or to shine and flutter amid the plumes of savage vanity –The poor Indian too truly represents the state of learned and systematic ignorance—arrangement guided by the light of no leading idea, mere orderliness without Method” Quoth Coleridge.
Then, what is the justification of this human endeavor? What for? for what reason we try to learn these past events if we cannot know for sure that they are true? Why we should learn it, if historical event is only a guess, a fable agreed upon by historinas at best? What is the use of historiographic knowledge? How could it be useful? History is used to form a historical and social identity. It is because, cultural heritage is accepted one of the society’s core values. It also prepares and gives material to be used for the political and idelogical disputations and orientations. It also gives a value-added intensional orientation which might be useful sometimes as a guide for personal orientation and illumination. Historical narrations are used to manipulate knowledge and to form an intensional orientation, and to make people oriented for political and social ends, which might be useful sometimes but for the most part it is very harmful. Our knowledge is historiographical in nature, we can not avoid to use it; but we have to be very careful for the numereous and manipulative uses of it. I will not use the term ‘philosophy of historiography’ anymore, since I consider it is already implied in the name of Historiography. Any epistemology of a study essentially belongs to that study, though it is neglected a bit by practising historians. But there might be no real and distinct separation in the whole subject. Historians make, science, art and philosophy of history, without being aware of what thay are telling is not history itself, but an artistical imagination and a craft of storytelling. To be sure this craft could be a scientific study, if it involves only a documentation of historical relics; or it could be an epistemological discussion of the craft itself. But, if a historian attempts to interpret all of these written stories of historical events as they have been searched, documented and narrated by historians, in that case, it becomes a philosophy of history: Then and thenceforth the quest for meaning throughout history begins; a retrospective but visionary quest, an imaginery time travelling.
I believe that travelling, the travel and the traveller can become one in this mythical quest for meaning throughout Time: The real quest might be returning home with some knowledge and understanding.
Shall we discuss the nature of time? We say history is the story of past time. But is there a past time really? According to science our common-sense about time is not true at all. For instance, there can be no synchronical events in accord with the theory of relativity. If there is no synchronical events, then there is no present moment; and in conformity with this judgement, there cannot be a future time either; and accordingly no past-time remains. This scientific idea resembles to the statement of the first scientific analyzer Aristotales who argues that; ‘past time has passed away so there is no more past time; future time has not arrived to the present moment, so it does not exist yet. If there can be no past and no future then not even this present time can be actually exists: there remains no time. This means time is not real, there is no time at all. Is it true that time does not exist?
Some people say so, but I think time is beyond the comprehension ability of humanity though it is more fundemental then space for the existence. From the beginning till this moment, I tried to show the inability of human mind to comprehend events which happens around us ceaselessly. This was the admonishment of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he said;“All things toil continuously; no one can ever finish describing this, man cannot utter it,” I also tried to interpret it with the use of St. Jerome’s saying that ‘ what we see ‘per speculum’ through the looking glass is enigmatic and particular individual events which could not be comprehensible fully since they happen as a process in Time. Thus, to repeat the aforesaid judgements of mine ‘it is the time constituent which makes events unique and singular’ or individuum since they belong to their time of happening. You cannot speak about events without interpreting the time at the same time, since the very word ‘event’ means what happens in space in a specific time. “Everything has its own time, and there is a specific time for every activity under heaven” quoth King Solomon. History also means time in the real, first sense of the word. So what? If you say time is not real according to science, and since science is more justifiable then common sense reasoning; then, there cannot be a history either. That means, if we are serious about this endeavor as to investigate and make a philosophical interpretation of history, or as I re-phrased it, in this ‘quest for meaning throughout time’, then, we are forced to evalute this enigmatic riddle which is the most puzzling question of the Sphinx: What is time? Without solving this problem, we cannot make this mythical quest for meaning throughout time, which is necessarily a voyage in time, like an imaginative time travel?
From now on, I will begin to discuss my real subject: it is Time. The Philosophy of History is ‘a Quest which is made in Time’; since history means the whole proceedings of the past events; then history is the time itself, and to repeat the beautiful saying of Pythagoras, ‘Time is the soul of this world’.
Philosophy of History is a quest for meaning throughout history.
It is a mythical journey which never ends; since it happens in time, one cannot reach to the final goal of this travel. The destination of this Quest is not a distant, dead and absent space which lies farther away than we thought, but it gets lost in time. It happens in time and must be reflected in the mirror of our consciossnes: “videmus per speculum in aenigmate et ex parte cognoscimus.” This partial, fragmentary visions of history is seen only in the darkness through a lookingglass as a riddle of the famous Sphinx of History –and these fragmentary visions need to be put together and re-enacted imaginatively again as a defragmented whole vision all at once in the consciousness of the historian. And also, that imaginative vision should be large enough to conceive the whole adventure of the mankinds journey in all history. It is like a mythical journey like a quest in time -not in space- since history is the story of the past from the beginnings till this present moment. A mythical journey such as the epic quest of gigantic Gilgamesh to discover the secret of eternal life. Philosophy of history is a gigantic endeavour indeed. The story of the whole history as it has been told, and unfolded, and extended in Time and it should be re-enacted in the consciousness of a historian. Is it possible? I am not sure, but “the sphinx must solve his own riddle.”
We speak about individual events of history; but what makes them individual and unique? What does it mean to be ‘the individual event’? Because a historical event happens only once and only as a unique event; it is utterly isolated, characterized, and differentiated from all other events as a singular event because of its occurrence only once in a definitly defined time. Since a historical ‘Event’ is what happens in three dimensions of space at a particular time, it naturally becomes Unique and Individual: It gains an individuality, a singularity and a personality by that special time to which it belongs. Nothing else but only this single event belongs to the framework of that three dimensions of space plus time:Ø. It is a null set, an empty set which contains nothing. It exists only by itself; a sentence which is a set of words that is complete in itself, but implies no meaning. A single event, being the only one of its kind a unique event, can not be classified since it is sui generis.
‘Individium est ineffabile’ as remarked by Goethe also. That means, it might be intuitively or imaginatively conceivable but it is beyond words, indescribable, inexpressible and unutterable. “Man cannot utter it” as it is stated in the aforementioned verse of Old Testament. It is impossible “to say the unsayable”; it isbeyond description because it ss about time. You can not generalize unique events because they are ‘sui generis’ unlike anything else. This is why Aristotle says that a theory of history is not possible.You can not generalize sui generis events of history since they are unique. Whenever we try to find a commonality between them, we may instead find many dissimilarities that prevent us from doing so. Therefore the practice of theoria and ‘istoria’ are antagonistic standpoints in essence. It is noted even by those sober and clear minded antique philosophers, “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” quoth Aristotle. .
Former philosophies of history
This is why all of these old interpretations of history seem to me as oversimplified accounts of the adventure of mankind written by terrible simplificators. As the so called ‘terrible simplificator‘ Napoleon says: “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” Perhaps, “not quite agreed upon”. Most of those philosophers of history easily neglect the unique character of historical facts which often defy every analogy, every universal conception, every general idea or meaning of a large scale.
Yet I speak of philosophies of history, even if in a sceptical and critical manner. How am I, then, going to construct a philosophy of history out of nothing? Out of “ineffable individual” events of history?
History is the Story of Time. And “Time is the Soul of this World” as Pythagoras declared. It is what happened in the entirety of the past-time, from the beginning of time until the present moment. Thus it cannot fit easily to the view of the craftsman which is restricted by the written remnants of history. How should we interpret the world that we see and live in? We shall know the Truth, but how? This is our life but how should we live it? Shall we live consciously, or shall we remain asleep and dream in a mindset of a false-awakening?
To construct a Philosophy of History is to think about the past and to interpret it to guide our lives. We need to understand and interpret history because the conditions of the world in which we live are the outcomes of the events that took place in the past. Even though historical events may have been left in the past like ‘forgotten dreams’, history still partakes in the present. And the present moment does not stand still: it changes all the time and turns into something else. To what degree this history could be portrayed or understood is open to debate; in historiography, one myth follows another. I think, we are forced to investigate and interpret the whole history, as far as possible, if we wish to understand the world in which we are living, and to be able to create a projection for the future.
When understood thus, as trying to give a meaning to the past, present, and the future of the life of mankind, philosophy of history encompasses the whole human wisdom and learning rather than being a mere branch of history or philosophy. Thus, Philosophy of history involves all methods of seeking the Truth such as science, philosophy, history, art, the study of the self and the mind, beliefs, and all the methods and tools of expression. Perhaps even the term ‘Philosophy of History’ is misleading since the compass of this field is much larger than what strikes the ear at first. If we are looking for the meaning of our existence on earth, then we need to interpret not only recorded history of the last five thousand years but full human history from the beginnings. History, in its broadest sense, is the totality of all past events including history of nature, but it was confined to the limits of recorded remnants by traditional historians. However this is a description of historians’ job, not of history itself. That means you would limit it to the known past of historiography. But it defines merely the traditionally accepted craft of historian, not history itself in its full sense. History in fact, means the total story of past which includes history of the nature also. Taken without a holistic perspective, the history of humanity also loses its meaning, because it is left without a framework and perspective. There are only a few tiles left in one of the worn out mosaics in Haghia Sophia, and it is impossible to imagine the whole picture of the mosaic from a few residues of mosaics. History, just like a mosaic, makes sense only as a whole. In order to comprehend your place in cosmos and its relevance to your life, you should study the History of Time, as a Universal History, or even the History of Cosmos. Since Philosophy of History becomes a quest for meaning throughout Time-itself.
On the other hand, a historian can not study even the known precepts of recorded history. Here is the same idea which once had been articulated within the distinguished style of the best narrator, in the preface of the Story of Civilization:
“that history should be written collaterally as well as lineally, synthetically as well as analytically; and that the ideal historiography would seek to portray in each period the total complex of a nation’s culture, institutions, adventures and ways. But the accumulation of knowledge has divided history, like science, into a thousand isolated specialities; and prudent scholars have refrained from attempting any view of the whole- whether of the material universe, or of the living past of our race. For the probability of error increases with the scope of the undertaking, and any man who sells his soul to synthesis will be a tragic target for a myriad merry darts of specialist critique. ‘Consider,’ said Ptah-hotep five thousand years ago, ‘how thou mayest be opposed by an expert in council. It is foolish to speak on every kind of work.’ A history of civilization shares the presumptuousness of every philosophical enterprise: it offers the ridiculous spectacle of a fragment expounding the whole. Like philosophy, such a venture has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.”
Unfortunately, History must depend on the -unreliable- written records of the past events as the sources of information. Then, of course not History, but philosophy of history must interpret the whole story of cosmos; if it is not going to be, “the ridiculous spectacle of a fragment expounding the whole.” The scope and subject of the philosophy of history should be as large as cosmos because a philosophy of history is useless if it is not a quest for the meaning of Human existence in this amazing Cosmos. Philosophy of History cannot be restrained to the forgotten dreams of historical time span: it is a quest for the meaning of human existence in this infinite cosmos. What is philosophy of history but a quest for meaning. It is useless if it cannot provide a new perspective and a true orientation for life. Such as the real scope of this subject is: as large as Cosmos.
We must turn away from relative and partial realities. As we have been admonished by St. Jerome, in the aforesaid quotation, we should not comprehend and prophesize in part, and Former philosophies of history have all tried to interpret human condition in the light of civilized story of humanity as they were compelled to depend on the recorded history of the last five thousand years. They erringly tried to comprehend the whole history of humanity from this partial knowledge. If we are going to make philosophy of history, attemting to interpret history of humanity, it means we are in a quest of wisdom to give meaning to our human-condition on earth, we become travellers who seek the whole and complete Truth.. As the great poet Fuzuli says: “It is their love that enlightens the lovers’ path.”
Although the road to Truth may pass through language figures, the final goal of Love goes beyond and transcends the expressive capabilities of any language. In actuality every Self, consciously or unconsciously seeks learning, for human soul is obliged to the acquisition of understanding, and a more important human activity cannot be conceived of. Hence, due to the limitations of language we may call it Philosophy of History, but its scope is far beyond the expressive power of what words can signify Perhaps we should find a more suitable name. As one sûfi poet also said:
“Because human language cannot express The Truth
which is so high and so much beyond all human measures.
Yet, my heart did grasp”
IV. The Quest for meaning throughout History:
To seek after Truth and Wisdom is the final goal of all studies, they all try to illuminate our mind each in their own way: But a quest for the meaning of truth throughout all time means you cannot accept to remain in the limited subject of any discipline. This means, whenever you need, you shall employ all methods of inquiry of all human endeavors.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” Quoth Jesus… “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.”
What will be revealed to us from the meaning of history when we recognize the real nature of historical remnants which lies in our sight? What might be the disclosed meaning history?
For the present, I will define it as “The Quest for Truth” throughout Time. “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you,” Aforesaid Jesus.
Therefore, we should know what is in our sight; that history and philosophy of historiography is intrinsically intermingled with a (speculative) philosophy of the history’, that is, actually a philosophy of time, a quest for meaning throughout time-itself. Above all, we define historiography as the written record of what could be known of the past and how historians research for learning about individual events to construct the story of that past. There could be no philosophy of past without historiography, without that knowledge, but in its turn, all of the historiographical literature also had been produced under the influence of the historians’ preconceived world-view. History itself is innately influenced by a special perception of historical reality and Time. Historiography is an art, a craft surely inseparable from a distinctive perception of the past time; id est, essentially it belongs to that spesific interpretation of history. Therefore, every historian makes philosophy of history, consciously or unconsciously, while he is choosing his subject in accordance with his worldview, his preceptive conduct and understanding, evaluating with the use of an intensional logic, and narrating his story of the past. There is no context-free history. This interaction and intermingling of history and philosophy of history is unavoidable; since they are already there, built in the nature of the subject. One cannot choose and is unable to evaluate which aspects of the story seems characteristic or important and what event is worthwhile to tell without deciding in accordance with the preconceived perspective of his mind. No perspective, then, no story construction. Whether any historian intends and is committed to make philosophy of history or not; there is no context-free history. What is History but a Philosophy of history.
This aspect of historiography is highly important -even though it is neglected sometimes- in every phase of the construction of historical research, imagination and writing processes; you are forced to be engaged in two kinds of philosophy of history; one is epistemology of historiography itself; and second one is ‘the interpretation of the past time events and reality as a whole’. So, what is history but a story of the universal change, history of the Cosmos and Time itself. This is the scope of the speculative philosophy of history according to my judgement. At this juncture, a question arises: What should be the limit of historical subject; or say, the frontiers of historiography?
Former philosophies of history: the subject of history
History begins approximately five thousand years ago with the invention of writing hierogyliphes and cuneiforms, and naturally depends on written remnants of the past. But habitual usage of written history should not make us to forget the whole story of humanity. It is all about the history of historiography because hitory begins with writing; but, writing is a new phenomenon in the story of civilization. History of Humanity began in the twilight of natural history, God knows when (if you begin with homo sapiens at least 200 thousand years but the dating goes backwards many more times; i.e. according to the theory of evolution the roots of humanity must have begun four million years ago) and civilization began 12 thousand years ago; when mankind had learned to control natural processes for the food production.
And the history; begins after the invention of writing which is about five thousand years, kind of ‘Pseudomorph History’. Former philosophers of history depending on to the rich heritage of written history have all tried to discern some meaningful pattern in this scope of history, making large generalizations about unique and ineffable events of history. They try to interpret this partial story of humanity, but these historical knowledge seems like the last scenes of a movie, it is a little fragment comparing to the whole story, since story of humanity goes back at least 250 million years. This fragmentary knowledge being also dubious and and puzzling could show us only an enigmatic and incomprehensible spectacle of the past, lost in the darkness of the unfathomable unknown nights of time. Remember the admonishing motto: videmus per speculum in aenigmate.
Former philosophers of history used only this partial, fragmentary and imcomrehensible knowledge of unique events of the written history to answer broader questions of human condition, destiny of humanity, or the meaning of our life in the history. Thus, it is a meaningless fragmentary story. According to my judgement, not only this restricted Pseudomorph-History, even whole story of human life on earth, the life span of mankind in the history of Earth is not enough to understand human condition; the place of humanity in the nature could be understood merely in the cosmic history of nature. As it is stated by Will Durant: “It may be of some use to those upon whom the passion for philosophy has laid the compulsion to try to see things as whole, to pursue perspective, unity and understanding through history in time, as well as to seek them through science in space.” Events of history are not dreamt in void; they happened in time and in a place on the earth. And the Earth itself is contained in the space, in this Cosmos. But this is solely my perspective and to explain the reason of this cognition, This brings a verse to my mind: “in culpa est animus qui se non effugit unquam”: that mind is at fault which never escapes itself. We live in a space exploration age: then we have much broader undrstanding than the people of old ages about our place in this world and its place in universe: “The times are changed and we too are changed in them”
But here is a historical admonishing of what Pharaoh Akheneton said: “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance”. In the same way, I advice my colleagues to be less presuming about history. Old historians had not consciously chosen the limited scope of their historical subject unlike an artist who chooses by free imagination; it was imposed upon them by the hand of history as by chance remnants of written material. Traditional historians habitually understood history as restricted with important events, mostly political, which were retained and spared usually by chronicles. So they cared and wrote about what they could get hold of by chance from the recorded remnants of history and were influenced by this restricted narrative. Here is another reproving story about the influence of writing ascribed to Pharaoh Thamus:
“Thamus once entertained the god Theuth, who was the inventor of many things, including number, calculation, geometry, astronomy, and writing. Theuth exhibited his inventions to King Thamus, claiming that they should be made widely known and available to Egyptians.
But when it came to writing, Theuth declared, “Here is an accomplishment, my lord the King, which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and wisdom.” To this, Thamus replied, “Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. So it is in this; you, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.”
Philosophy of History was something like a pseudo morphosis of the philosophy of history because it could never be the whole story of the past time but merely a partial story of civilized people, limited in scope by the time span of written relics of the last five thousand years. Thus far and no further extent could go the philosophy of history, since all the recorded history was about the last scenes of human existence on earth.
Philosophers of history, seeing that individual events or persons of history are not comprehensible -as the saying goes “individium est ineffabile”– tried to discern the patterns of cultures or civilizations or regularities of behavior inflicted on people by tradition. Nevertheless, this extent of knowledge was also burdensome to bear; there are at least 130 million printed books published only in the modern times. Besides, if you do not have a proper perspective of human existence, wide enough to understand as it happened in the cosmos, then you cannot really grasp the full meaning of history. If you wish to see the full scope of the destiny of mankind; then you have to have a proper standpoint for a perspective wide enough to be a holistic view.
We have to interpret the meaning of our existence recalling to what extent could we see by naked eyes, before the invention of telescope, and to what extent today we may know the place of the earth in the Universe and how small and indistinct the world is. We should not forget that a person’s life span seems infinitely short if compared with billions of years of Time. It is very short actually even if estimated in the frame of recorded history which is approximately five thousand years. The full scope of philosophy of history is the History of Time, fifteen billion years of Cosmos, according to my perspective. In that case, this subject is not about merely recorded historical knowledge, since it must cover the whole wisdom of humanity. If we are going to search for meaning we have to transcend our limited perspective changing the standpoint as if ascending on a mountain more and more upwards we have to leavine this limited knowledge of history aside and embrace all the heritage of knowledge and wisdom of humanity which history brought us.
This is why I think that the perspective of the philosophy of history should be considered as conspection (con-spectare). In comparison, History’s viewpoint is a re-collective imagination of the past events as much as it can be known, this is looking at time in retrospect (retro-spectare). But this kind of conspective search of meaning, surely, would include other perspectives in addition to this retrospective knowledge of history: namely, inspection of the concepts of philosophy(inspectare), prospective course of science, introspective knowledge of the art and introspective orientation art mystics towards self knowledge, all at once
Let us recall again that our historiographical materials are merely fragmentary relics preserved by chance from the historical writings as a story of the civilized ages of human history. They might be even last scenes of the play human acted on earth by humankind. Some ancient writer has written what he had observed -or had been told about some news and imagined them as if it migt be possible to be a second-hand observer- since he is forced to spin a narration-web from the reported events to tell the story of events. But be aware, this is like a forgotten dream, even twice dreamt dream, about some fragmentary visions. When you read and imagine the scenes again, as far as you can, the content of the dream is always changing according to your enacted imagination; according to information theory, the information should remain unchanged, but any historical information is an ever changing information while being transferred from the past to the present time. It is concurrently or imaginatively re-enacted in historical consciousness. It is kind of a dream-work: dreamt anew within every recurring stage of the re-enacted imagination of the reader. A dream-work actually conceals the real content of the dream from consciousness.
History, becomes dreaming about past events which are in turn fragments of the twice-dreamt dreams; since historical facts could only be known through intermediary sources. In this case, historiography becomes in fact, “an interpretation of some forgotten dreams” about past time…
Therefore, Historiography is to think about reality versus dream through dreaming about historical events. I will go on to speak after the fashion of Nietzsche.
I exemplify the use of history
to convey its meaning to those who are a bit backward
the truth of a forgotten dream.
V. The Quest for meaning throughout Time
1. standpoint: ego sum qui sum
mind and dreams
contemplative dreams as acts of mind: art, nature, history , future and the mind itself
For this reason, it would be a good idea to begin with the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams as an exemplary introduction to my philosophy of history: “As narrated in the Old Testament’s section of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babel, having been depressed by the dreams he saw and thus being awaken, orders all the soothsayers and fortune-tellers to be gathered in order to interpret his dream. There would be no problem as long as his dreams are interpreted. The interpreters will be rewarded, but in the case of not being able to come up with an adequate interpretation, all the fortune tellers will be killed. When fortune tellers ask their king: “May our King tells us his dream so that we may interpret his dreams?”, the King of Babel replies: “The dream I have seen has gone out of my mind, I have forgotten it.” and adds; “You shall tell me my dream so that I understand you can interpret it.” Isn’t it true? If they cannot see what the King has dreamt, how could it be evident that they may be trustworthy for their interpretations? As I contemplate what we live in the modern world, and see it in television, I agree with Nebuchadnezzar. What could be the meaning of this nightmare? How to interpret the reality we live in, the dream of history, the humankind have seen up to our day? First of all, are the events that took place like forgotten dreams, or is it the reality; is this the reality of the world and the humankind? How are we going to interpret history and reality?”
Due to the exile of Jews to Babel by Nebuchadnezzar, at that time Prophet Daniel was also living in Babel. Afterwards Daniel appears on the scene and says to Nebuchadnezzar: I saw the dream you had, because I have seen the same dream. You have seen a statue whose head is made of gold, and whose body is made of silver, and whose legs are of bronze and the pedestal is of iron, and at the end the statue falls down. The head gets severed from the body. Daniel interprets this dream that since Nebuchadnetsar is the head of the state, he will fall from the throne soon. History too is like the lost dreams of Nebuchadnetsar and the historian holds the same position as Prophet Daniel, who dreams the King’s dream a second time, and interprets it.
Historian consciously dreams (like the lucid dreams) about forgotten and lost dreams of humanity, with the help of evidential and partial guides of historical relics, tries to imagine and re-enact that dream again in his consciousness which actually had been dreamt by the dead people, say, not only King of Babel but by the all Kings and people of History. There are also historical novels (War and Peace being the most successful of its genre) which can be compared to science fiction in that one of them is dreaming about the past and the other is dreaming about the future.
History-as-fiction is the fictive story of the past as dreamed of what happened in the past.(Alert:do not confuse it with historification.) It is a conscious dream like lucid dreams, dreamt with the intention of creative imagination to see what happened really in the past. History-as-fiction, like science-fiction has the same elementary tool of creative imagination to construct a story about past by the use of historical information -sometimes very tiny information bits which remained as historical relics from the past events and occasional resourceful stories as the first hand sources of history as witnessed and written or ready-made presentations of stories that are large enough to help to the construction of the story of the whole past. Such as the memoirs of Babur. History-fiction uses historical information provided by historiography, as the material context of a creative imagination to construct a story of the past: it has been dreamt intentionally like lucid dreams by the use of the conscious effort, and written by an intensional logic to make a true representation of what actually happened in the past. Science fiction also uses scientific information as materials for dreaming what may happen in the future.
As it seems, science-fiction writers use the creative imagination much more freely than historian to construct an imagined portrayal of future without being forced to search after what would truly happen in the future. So, it appears, that it is the job of the futurist, more than of a science-fiction writer. But the difference between them and historians might be over-estimated as science-fiction writers use their creative imagination with much more freedom than historians do. Of course, historian care and search after the truth of his story about the past. But the past is different from future: Past is definitely unchangeable because it has already happened in real time. Whatever once happened in history remains forever unchangeable, though it could be imagined in different ways. If historiography discovers some new facts and changes our knowledge of the past, then it is not true that the past time changes, on the contrary, it remains forever without any change as it had happened. The change happens to be in our increased or differently imagined knowledge about past, not past event itself. In contrast, the future seemingly is open to every possibility. So it implies more freedom, that, so be it, the craft of science-fiction has more freedom. I usually say that: “What is determined and necessary in Space might be contingent in Time.”
The difference comes partly from the nature of the subject rather than the use of free imagination between these two craftsmanships. Lastly, I will compare the differences of perspective between historical fiction and science-fiction the subject of history is the past while the subject of science fiction is the prospect of open future, both of the craftsmanships are very similar in nature. Science fiction is dreaming about future and History-fiction is dreaming about the definite past -within a lucid dream Like Daniel‘s dream- using reliable materials of the relics of the past. Somewhat like historification, we dream about history, imagine it and present this imagination as the actual past. These two crafts essentially are the same craft of fiction. History is like a fictional narrative as post-modernists say.
My philosophical disposition also infuses me with a skeptical standpoint, preventing me from accepting even the nature as it is. Perhaps the nature is quite different from our consciousness of it, as objective reality, is truly real in itself and unchangeable as space-time; but at least our knowledge about nature is a fiction of our conscious dreams. I would rather agree with the famous Polish semanticist Alfred Korzybski about the ‘reality of nature’ “that, people do not have access to direct knowledge of reality; rather they have access to perceptions and to a set of beliefs which human society has confused with direct knowledge of reality”. I usually cite Korzybski’s dictum: “The map is not the territory”. We can neither experience nor express the world directly, but only through the use of some “abstract symbols” which stand as the image of reality. Our consciousness is limited both by the structure of our nervous systems, and by the structure of language. We imagine freely and creatively in our dreams, but we have a limited imagination of nature while we are awake and are aware of ourselves. Our dream of nature is a kind of restricted imagination of nature, limited by our own awareness of space, under the influence of five senses which provide the sensory data to our consciousness; and according to the imagined reconstruction of that sensory data, our consciousness builds a constrained dream about nature.
That dream is constrained by the imposed data which comes from sensory organs -without interruption- filling the full content of consciousness and leaving no more room for free imagination of dreams while we are awaken and aware of ourselves, in our conscious state, the whole content of the imagined dream of reality as consciousness constructed with the the sensory data. This information was provided and imposed upon consciousness while it was paying attention to them; so our ‘awareness of nature means’ only a ‘constrained dream of consciousness about nature‘. Conscioussness always gives the same picture of reality around us, but only, because of this constrained content of sensum data which imposed to fill the consciousness seemingly in the same way, since these sense datum of the objective reality never changes as sense datum, as appearance. consciousness is so constrained that ascribes even more reality to the sense datum than itself. So be it; not constructed by the use of free imagination but a restrained dream about reality. But yet, our conscious representation of nature in our present time consciousness is very consistent in taking the same picture of nature, as invariably observed, always as a coherent picture of the world. In short, nature itself also is a dream which is observed by the use of senses which constrain our consciousness; and therefore, nature is a self-restrained dream of imagination which is happening in the consciousness of awareness of the present time.
I remember here again the dictum of St Paul: “Videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate: tunc autem facie ad faciem. Nunc cognosco ex parte: tunc autem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum”: ‘Now we see in a mirror, in darkness; but later we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; but later I shall know as I am known’. I know by experience that the the historians consciousness -as the mirror of enigma- cannot reflect the true nature of history and what really happened in history. Historical knowledge can reflect only fragmentary knowledge of individual events which could be depicted only from the evidence of historical relics and from that “mirror of enigma” comes as fragments of knowledge, ex parte, innately partial. It is the historians’ imagination which assigns a form of story or a pattern to those fragmentary events of the past and narrates them as large scale processes of history. This mirror of enigma serves as a good metaphor for the consciousness of the historian, which also reflects the fragmentary facts of history through those dark paths of consciousness. Thus historians construct a story from their dream-work of imagination. The next step is to narrate this imaginary story as a vivid representation of history.
Historians try to imagine and represent some historical events as a story of past events, but they are not free to create imagined details to make the story lively, like War and Peace. I think any serious study of historiography should deeply investigate the details of the craft of story telling. I earnestly advice again to study War and Peace as the only successful and full representation of historical events both as the story of individual fates and large scale events -such as the description of Napoleon‘s army marching inwards Russia.
As it was stated in verse, “All these sayings are worn out phrases; man cannot utter it”; I would rather say that it is impossible to tell the story of any historical process, if I had not known Tolstoy‘s art which is capable of representing history in full scope, both as a diachronic continuum of historical time and synchronical representation of full scale Russian society. I can not explain the details of his art of storytelling here.The detailed analysis of Tolstoy’s art of describing life and history can be found in The Craft of Fiction by Percy Lubbock. And I strongly recommend it to be used in historiography studies. And according to Percy Lubbock‘s judgment, nobody can make such a lively and true representation of historical events, except Tolstoy, and I also firmly believe it to be so. Isaiah Berlin also noted in Hedgehog and the Fox that “No author who has ever lived has shown such powers of insight into the variety of life–the differences, the contrasts, the collisions of persons and things and situations, each apprehended in its absolute uniqueness and conveyed with a degree of directness and a precision of concrete imagery to be found in no other writer.” We do not expect from ordinary historians to possess such an exceptional creative genius like Tolstoy, however, if they become familiar with the art of narration, they can write better histories instead of narrating fragmentary, meaningless and futile stories, with shallow nonsense. Tolstoy was completely justified when he criticized historian’s manner of writing history: “Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”
Thus, the mirror of enigma reveals the shortcomings of historical imagination. Until the 20th century, the story of the past has been imagined in a diachronical continuum of time by traditional historiography, but the events happen in the temporal yet synchronical continuum of Time as well. In the past people thought that the nature of time was diachronical and linear, however, we are living in the 21st century now, and after a good deal of philosophical and scientific questioning about the essence of time since the antiquity, finally, we have come to understand that, actually we have no idea about what time is. Thus the quest for meaning throughout time morphs into a quest for the meaning of time itself. “Time is the soul of this world,” Quoth Pythagoras.
2. Perspectives of mind
perspectives as forms and means of experience
We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? “Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”
Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.
There are dreams as free imagination of mind, and restricted dreams as conscious awareness of nature, and dreams of past as history; twice dreamt dreams of historians, like the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar which had been dreamt for the second time by Daniel, and dreams of future as science-fiction. Essentially they are all dreams of a consciousness. History is the forgotten dreams of the past time. We act, as if we can remember some parts of that dream, by using some relics of history provided by chance, taken as partly memorized tokens of the past time: But a single night awaits everyone. I do not know how this “speech act” of mine would be appreciated or depicted by anyone of you, or how it would be seen by a future historian. This is why I think that the self consciousness should be the first standpoint of every perspective. First things first; My standpoint is my self consciousness, and this saying follows readily: ‘nosce te ipsum’: know thyself.
And again, know the historian before History. But I’d rather say, “ego sum qui sum” : I am that I am; as I also believe that “individuum est ineffabile”; even the individual historian himself could not have a full understanding of his personality, the nature of his shortcomings as “being in himself”. I intended to speak in some detail about the “intensional logic of the historical evaluation” and other important problems of historiography; but this ‘speech act’ itself is going to be less effective and in the least less expressive comparing to a valuable and detailed discussion of the problems of historiography. So be it: it was, as the introduction only, intended to call attention to the special problems of the historiography; so that we would be aware of the grave philosophical implications of that subject matter.
Without sufficient and necessary reason, but through the influence of the traditional craftsmanship, historians had always neglected to discuss the grave philosophical problems, implied in the subject and hidden in the nature of historiography- nearly until the 21th century. I have to reiterate that it is impossible to discuss these aspects of historiography without constructing a new Philosophy of History which is sceptical enough to construct anew its own epistemology. But then, if it is really relevant to the meaning of our life, as the quest of meaning in the history, the subject of the Philosophy of History is compelled to transcend its own knowledge province provided by historiographic knowledge (approximately 5000 years) to speak about the whole history of time which includes not only the story of whole humanity but The Story of Cosmos. Its subject-matter should be the History of the Time Itself, if we expect a meaning relevant to our lives from the philosophy of history; otherwise, it cannot provide a perspective and an orientation.
A perspective for the meaning of history should be provided by, at least as the whole story of humanity which is about 250000 years. Compare this scope with these last scenes humanity as far as written historical knowledge goes, The so called big-history happens to be the new curriculum nowadays. Nevertheless, even big history or world history would not be good enough to provide a perspective for understanding, since you have to understand the value and place of humanity and human-condition in this large universe.
Let me repeat one of my remarks on the nature of historiography and Philosophy of History. The Semantic nature of this subject-matter reminds me of Cantor’s Set Theory: You begin from Alef Null and continue to analyze the infinite sets but all the same the infinite set is always transcends itself becomes greater then itself in scope; you speak about the already infinite set, but there are greater infinities alongside the infinity which is already stated in the continuum hypothesis. Likewise our subject matter of historiography is so blended and mixed up with the philosophy of history that it goes on to enlarge its scope at last becoming the story of the time itself to be lost in the infinities: I’d rather use another metaphor that the ‘subject of the philosophy of history could be treated like Riemann Manifolds’; but it seems to be a hopeless enterprise in the limited scope of this article.
Let me point out that we have no idea about the real nature of time itself in spite of countless philosophical discussions and scientific investigations or say, rather scientific argumentations; since it is impossible to investigate time. We need a clear-cut Philosophy of History with a highly sceptical point of view and a strong emphasis on epistemology, which should be free from naïve speculations about time or history. Let us have a common sense and go on to work and do our job as doing historical research about historical information sources and even try to imagine historical events in the light of these evidences of historical relics; we can even go as far as trying to illustrate what could have happened in fact in the past according to the framework of our chosen subject; but never But we should never forget that history is imagined only in the historians consciousness as the re-enacted dream of the long forgotten dreams about past events. That dream-work is also perceived depending on the inferred information from the evidences of sources as reflected through the mirror of enigma. According to psychoanalytic interpretations, it is said that our unconscious mind sometimes alters the manifest content of our dreams in order to conceal their real meaning from us. I am not sure whether the real content of the dream of history is truly shown or concealed from historian by his unconscious usage of philosophical interpretations.
But we should not deceive ourselves: It is evidential guesswork, nothing more. This is another reason, according to my judgment, that the former Philosophers of history have all deceived themselves while trying to interpret individual events of the supposedly known history. It is impossible to imagine what really happened in the past, and although it does not make any difference whether you have reliable knowledge or not, the nature of the subject is not proper for building scientific or philosophical theories. This subject-matter might be treated with “ver stehen” as Wilhelm Dilthey stated. History is all about time.
Alas, we remember the story of Old Testament again: we are told how Daniel for the second time dreamt the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in his own dream; and because being a prophet himself; he could know the subject of the forgotten dreams of the King, since he has also seen that the King has dreamt about a fallen statue and so on. Please pay attention to the similarity of this story to the History: It is a twice dreamt dream like history itself. Innately, history is like Daniel’s dream of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, thus I prefer to use this story of forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar as a useful metaphor for the nature of historiography. How could you interpret the King’s Dream if he did not remember himself what he dreamt and told you? Every Historian is forced to act like Daniel, and try to dream the same forgotten dream of humanity as far as possible, in the light of the evidences of historical sources, as if historical relics help him to remember some parts of the King’s Dream. I tried and wrote an article myself, titled as “Contemporary Interpretations to the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, The King of Babel” ; But then, again, I also made some remarks about the famous Dream of the King of Khazars, Bulan Khan in a speech act like this one.(you can watch it on Youtube).
I will repeat the metaphor of that dream. In fact that dream has been a subject-matter of not only history but also a historical fiction, surprisingly filled with linguistic allusions, The Dictionary of Khazars. I have also read Judah Hallevi‘s Kitab al Khazari, for the account of that dream. Finally I have read the story again in the book (Exercitationes Ecclesiasticae et Biblicae written by Ioannis Morini, Exercitatio 13, librum kozri, p.418) that the king of Khazars had seen in his dream an angel who said that “Intentio tua grata est et accepta apud creatorem sed opera tua non sunt illi accepta”: “Your intention is graceful and accepted by God but your deeds can not be accepted”. That dream has been told as the very reason of the conversion of Khazars to Judaism. The story goes on that the dream was recurring again and again until Bulan Khan invited philosophers and representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and they discussed their world-views in detail in front of him.. It was a quest for meaning as it has been told by Judah Hallevi. I remember what Judah says about philosophy while he was telling that story, Bulan Khan asks: “Does this mean that Aristotle‘s philosophy is not deserving of credence?” The Rabbi replies. “Certainly.”
I’d rather say that a philosophy of time should employ all perspectives of inquiry, and must replace the colorful but fruitless philosophy of the 20th century, since it is no longer encompassing the whole wisdom as it once was in the antiquity. Because, as it seems nowadays, it is nearly completely reduced to conceptual inspections of philosophical language, to the unbelievable esoteric jargon. May be we need some simplicity. In the end I have spoken somewhere about my own dreams of Syria and the world, they are open to debate, but who knows “when it comes to statements about the future, even the logic of Aristotle does not entail only one consequence as true or false. If you can provide a proper perspective for the future of mankind the future is also open to debate
I will reiterat the angel’s warning to Bulan Khan, in his dream; since it seems unfortunately true for all human endeavors of history; particularly nowadays: It is very likely that the intentions of people are pleasant and accepted by God but our deeds can not be accepted. That is the lore which history brings.
Some conclusions which comes along to my mind from this very sceptical interpretation of history, which is mine. Mea culpa, it is my fault, that I am forced to see through the mirror of my own self-conscious mind.
Here comes some conclusions as summarized in short remarks:
1.Just as we mentioned in the beginning of this speech, even a simple event such as a meeting cannot be comprehensively narrated.
There are numerous other methodological problems such as holism and individualism in historiography which requires philosophical scrutiny. Just as in this example, the problematic aspects of this issue such as universals and particulars which seem simple at first sight, contains within itself much larger debates which are being disputed for centuries.
Due to the scientific analysis of the historical remnants and materials, historiography could be considered a science. And it could be considered an art just as it happens in the narrations and descriptions in War and Peace.
There can also be a philosophy of historiography as in the form of epistemological arguments .
However, since contemporary philosophers reduced philosophy to epistemology, engaging in epistemological argumentation is to engage in philosophy. Hence,philosophy of historiography which concerns itself about the craft of history, is actually secondary, and the first kind is the speculative philosophy of history is about the past events. The shortcoming of this approach is that it limits itself with the recorded past, but the history of humanity is incomparably larger. However, philosophy should not analyze but synthesize, hence it must direct itself to the whole, not to the parts.
another conclusion is that history is unknown and even unknowable: Historia est terra incognita; even the restricted scope of the last five thousand years of history is so difficult for human endeavors that it is impossible to study it as a whole. Firstly, it is evidential knowledge and involves so many epistemological problems that there cannot be any acceptable knowledge of history, and secondly the recorded history involves at least two hundred million books and therefore it is impossible to study the whole history of humanity.
If everything is related with everything in history; it is not easy to isolate and single out any subject. The subject is so intermingled with other events that it enlarges itself endlessly and gets lost in the infinities just as in the set theory in mathematics. We cannot draw the borders of any historical subject precisely and it is impossible to study the whole bulk of historiography. Thus, no conceivable subject remains, except may be a solely historical biography of an individual which is going to be conceivable but ineffable in itself anyway.
4. projection, how to live
ethics and politics
Unconsciously everyone is forced to worship their own minds, and their own understanding, as if their minds are capable of conceiving everything, like the mind of a God. And what did we gain by pursuing this skeptical and negative conclusion?
In my opinion, any thought about any matter is quite dubitable as people worship themselves and their own minds, i.e. as to be so mad to think themselves as a God, they do not wish to acknowledge their faults and lack of understanding. They think that what they already know is sufficient and they dislike to be contradicted. Actually they are justifiable in doing so, since life is possible for them due to this ignorance. Since none of them possess an understanding as far reaching as Socrates, they do not know that they do not know. They transform this lack of understanding to idols such as history, or nature or other religions.
People are very fanatical in most issues, because they are indoctrinated by the use of unbelievably naive narratives of history and by the orientation of oversimplified philosophies of history. Even this foolishness of theirs is not so important but these false beliefs and misconceptions lead them to murder one another when their ideologies are not accepted.
5. Events horizon
Even the death of a numerous people is not important from the perspective of nature; but our technology has advanced to such a degree that even if we cannot bring in the apocalypse, we are changing the human nature so rapidly that in 40 to 50 years it is very likely to see the end of humankind as we know it.
I will conclude by the rhyme of Mevlana: “Sırr-i men ez nâle-i men dûr nist”: “My secret is an ‘open secret’ which is hidden in my words of lamentaion.”
Humans need to educate themselves to the degree that they become aware of their lack of understanding, instead of the tendency to believe that they can perceive and understand everything that their consciousness imposes on them as if it is the reality in itself. “Now we see in a mirror, in darkness; but later we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; but later I shall know as I am known.” quoth St. Paul. We have to increase our self consciousness and wisdom to the degree of acknowledging that our understanding is limited. Mind constructs a picture of reality and deceive itself that this constructed picture is as real as the thing itself. So be aware not to see this enigma ‘per speculum’, through the dark corridors of the mirror of your mind. Do not be deceived by your mind’s dreams of reality. “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance”. Quoth Akhenaton
Is it possible that one can judge his own consciousness, so that he would not be deceived by his own conscious mind? But then, the snake began to eat its own tail: I am that I am, and so, he is that he is ( he is what his mind is). “No man ever knows who he is,” Quoth Borges.
frame of reference as the quest for meaning?
MIND & TIME