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Title: Historyczność kultury. W poszukiwaniu myślowego fundamentu współczesnej historiografii.
Other Titles: The historicity of culture. Looking for mental foundations of contemporary historiography.
Authors: Werner, Wiktor
Keywords: Historyczność
David Hume
Adam Smith
Friedrich Nietzsche
George Herbert Mead
Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Malthus
historia intelektualna
historia kultury europejskiej
historia nauki
Charles Hodge
Jeremy Bentham
David Ricardo
John William Draper
John Stuart Mill
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Wydawnictwo naukowe UAM
Citation: Werner, Wiktor, Historyczność kultury. W poszukiwaniu myślowego fundamentu współczesnej historiografii, 2006, s. 234.
Abstract: Pracę tę ma można uznać za studium z obszaru intelektualnej historii kultury europejskiej. W tym ujęciu dotyczy ona powstawania, w okresie od początku XVIII wieku do początku XX wieku, ważnych dyskursów opisujących i wyjaśniających świat: filozoficznego empiryzmu, ekonomii politycznej, społecznego darwinizmu i teologii naturalnej. Praca ta także ma charakter studium z historii idei, gdzie badanym zagadnieniem jest historyczność kultury czyli zbiór myślowych kategorii, których obecność w różnych dyskursach (niekoniecznie historiografii) nadaje im historyczny charakter. Jest to również praca z teorii historii, której zadaniem jest poszukiwanie podstaw historycznego myślenia obecnego w różnych sposobach opisywania świata. Nie jest to natomiast praca z historii historiografii, gdyż historiografia nie jest tu przedmiotem bezpośredniego namysłu. Współczesna historiografia jest w tej pracy punktem odniesienia refleksji poświęconej historycznym kategoriom myślowym stanowiącym konceptualny fundament tak historiografii jak i innych historycznych opisów świata. Praca ta jest podzielona na dwie części: część teoretyczną i empiryczną. W części pierwszej nakreślona jest wstępna koncepcja historyczności wraz z ugruntowaniem jej na fundamencie takiej teorii ludzkiej świadomości, która jest w stanie odpowiedzieć na pytanie: Dlaczego człowiek potrzebuje historycznego sposobu myślenia i historycznego obrazu świata? W części empirycznej odnosimy wypracowaną i uzasadnioną w części teoretycznej koncepcję historyczności do interpretacji ważnych dla kultury europejskiej dyskursów: empirycznej filozofii Hume’a, klasycznej ekonomii politycznej, społecznego darwinizmu i teologii naturalnej. Naszym celem jest ukazanie w obrazach świata powstających w tych dyskursach cech historycznych i ahistorycznych oraz wyodrębnienie kategorii myślowych, które czynią dany opis świata historycznym lub ahistorycznym.
The historicity of culture. Looking for mental foundations of contemporary historiography. The topic of this book is the presence of historicity in the European culture. It is cultural criticism. It presents a critique of historicized culture. The historicity is a way of thinking and a form of consciousness. We may well say that it is a form of sense: a historical sense. Historical sense is a way of thinking which dominates in the European culture from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century. That sense creates historical consciousness. That consciousness has its idiosyncratic features. These features include the sensitivity to the changeability of the world, perceiving changeability as irreparable and an awareness of the fact that past events have an impact on the present shape of the world. The idea behind our concept of historicity is the historical consciousness presented metaphorically in various philosophical texts of Friedrich Nietzsche (Chapters 1 – 2, Part I of the present book). In the most important one, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life (1873), historical consciousness is presented as three different models, namely monumental, antiquarian and critical way of historical thinking. According to Nietzsche, a monumental form of thinking is an attempt to revive the past greatness in an effort to follow this greatness and remake great deeds of the past. What a man who employs a monumental way of thinking is looking for in history is a heroic ideal he wants and is able to follow. However, the monumental pattern of consciousness, like all forms of historical thinking, has its dark side, as well. The monumental thinking can corrupt if one is not searching for a role model to follow but for an object to peep at. In such case, a living source of inspiration becomes a frivolous show for entertainment seekers passing by. The antiquarian pattern of historical thinking creates a man who identifies himself with the land where he lives and with all the generations that lived there before him. The backbone of antiquarian consciousness is the feeling of devotion to the state, the city and the home. A man thinking in an antiquarian way perceives himself as an element in the never-ending chain of generations that continue their efforts to make their land, state or city better, happier and more beautiful. This kind of thinking can also corrupt and turn into a mere form of collecting old things. The fierce feeling of devotion to the holy land of fathers changes into puny gatherings of ancient furniture or coins. The critical form of historical consciousness is an effort to annihilate all illusions and obstacles which disturb the act of building a newer and better reality. It is an attempt to liberate men who suffer and need a new world to live in. A rotten form of critical thinking is full of vengeance and hate: it destroys and annihilates, but it is unable to create a new world on scorched earth. Historical consciousness as a whole is accompanied by two other patterns of thinking: the ahistorical thinking and the superhistorical form of consciousness. These three forms do not contradict each other. They rather complement each other to make a perfect man: a superman. The historical consciousness is based on perceiving the process of change and on the ability to remember what is changing. The ahistorical pattern of thinking ignores any changeability of the world. It is focused on the present time and the present moment, blind to anything else. It is the power of not-remembering, understood not as a negative act of forgetting memories but a positive act of self-creation in the present moment and only in that moment. The superhistorical form of awareness allows to see more than from the historical perspective. A superhistorical man lives in the world of universal values and timeless beauty. Historical consciousness, being the central point in Nietzsche’s narration, becomes a poisonous way of thinking when it is all alone. In its pure form, history destroys life; it can be amicable to life, however, when accompanied by a non-historical form of thinking. In my book, I employ the Nietzsche’s concept of historical consciousness to interpret the European intellectual history from the 18th to the early 20th century (Part II). The emergence of Scottish Enlightenment in the mid-18th century and methodological debates (both in natural and social sciences) in the early 20th century are milestones in the process of historizing the European culture. David Hume, the leader of the Scottish Enlightenment movement, is the first actor of our intellectual journey (Chapter 1 in Part II). Hume is important for this book because of three aspects of his activity: His scepticism for causal relation enabled criticism in cultural, social and historical studies. His “science of mind” laid theoretical, psychological foundations for both natural and social sciences. His activity in the field of historiography, where he used intellectual tools forged in his philosophical studies. According to Kant, Hume “woke up” European intellectuals from a “metaphysical nap”, and from the time his monumental A Treatise of Human Nature was published, one could no longer be a historical man in a naïve, metaphysical mode. Hume had changed thinking about causal relation from ontological to epistemological, psychological perspective. The causal reasoning in Hume’s Treatise… is needed by a man to understand the world and be able to live in it. The great importance of causal reasoning, according to Hume, is that it is the only kind by which we can go beyond what is immediately present to the senses or what can be traced beyond our senses, and informs us of beings and objects we do not see or feel. Man is aware of his own identity only by using causal reasoning. The way a human mind works is that memories are not continuous, and we have only irregular knowledge about our former states. If we believe ourselves to be the same person we were two or twenty years ago, it is only possible thanks to our ability of causal reasoning. For Hume, understanding the workings of the mind is the key to understanding everything else. Therefore, Hume's philosophy of mind is fundamental to all his intellectual activity in every branch of his study. The Hume’s concept of a man is the idea of a being sensitive to both social and historical experience. Since causal reasoning is the main psychical force that creates human consciousness, the knowledge of one’s past is critical to building one’s self- awareness. Hence, Hume considers history a very important branch of study in ‘moral sciences’. The historical knowledge is important, according to Hume, not because of its ontological exactness, but because of its social and psychical valuableness and usefulness. In his texts, Hume uses historical knowledge in three main ways: A pragmatic pattern connected with universal reasoning about objects observed in history as changeable only on the surface but stable in their core. It is a model of thinking which treats historical knowledge as pragmatically useful for politicians, soldiers and others because of the richness of human experience it holds. Hume presented a critical approach to this form of reasoning; it means that he tries to extract universal associations perceived not only in the past but in the present as well. An evolutionary way of thinking used to explain modern (or bygone) entities by presenting historical processes in which they emerged. It is used by Hume to explain the role of religion in modern societies as well as in the history. A third model we can name as compassionate because it is grounded in a historian’s (and human’s) ability to sympathize with historical actors. Hume uses it in his history-writing practice. The Hume’s writings show the process of historicization observed in the European intellectual culture. The next section of my book (Chapter 2, Part II) presents a parallel process of dehistoricization which could be noticed in a specific area of the European culture, i.e. in economic sciences. It deals with the process by which political economy (which was a historical branch of study in the 18th century) became economics, through desocialisation and dehistoricisation, and how this announced the separation of economics from other social sciences at the beginning of the twentieth century. That process is presented in a comparison of texts written by main figures of this discipline in its classic period, i.e. Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. There are two main currents in that process which are particularly responsible for the emergence of economy from historical and social sciences: 1.Explaining human behaviour through reducing its historical complexity to a simple relation between a few basic elements was the first trend. 2.The second was the tendency to changing empirical, inductive methodology into deductive, abstractive mood of reasoning. The leader of the first trend was Jeremy Bentham who developed a concept of explaining all human actions as a result of interaction between two mental forces: devouring pleasures and avoiding pains. Individuals strive to maximise their happiness by maximising their pleasure and minimising their pain. And since society is simply a sum of its individual members, the interest of the society is also the sum of the interests of its members. Therefore, in Bentham’s model there is very little demand for historical inquiries concerning symbolic values, philosophies, ethical and esthetical hierarchies, traditions, social customs and cultural patterns. They could be all regarded as a source of motivation for human actions; yet, in Bentham’s concept they tend to be reduced to various forms of response to two main stimuli: pain and pleasure. The leader of the second tendency was David Ricardo, whose concern was to establish the ‘laws’ that govern the behaviour of economic categories or the ‘principles’ on which they are based. He did so mostly by using the rules of logic to make necessary abstractions and simplifying assumptions, almost to a total exclusion of any other mode of reasoning, be it historical, empirical or other. He attempted to give economic science a status equivalent to that enjoyed by natural sciences. Therefore, he described economical events not as results of decisions made by a given person but rather as effects of universal tendencies and currents. The last part of my book deals with the problem of a paradigm’s shift in natural sciences which occurred in the second half of the 19th century. That change was marked by the emergence of the evolution debate, but it was rooted in the process of historicizing the European culture. The collapse of a temporally static metaphysical concept of man and universe that dominated from the Middle Ages to early modern times made the methodology of natural sciences grounded on the idea of universal taxonomy obsolete. In reflections on social affairs there was a parallel process: the idea of a society revolving around an ideal state of equilibrium was hit with cannon fire of revolution’s wars. A new idea emerged: the idea of social progress. Those two currents mixed and mingled in the 19th century discussion upon the problem of evolution. Although the concept of evolutionary changes in nature had been presented by Darwin, his protagonists and contemporaries as a purely scientific idea, it was clear that its scope was much wider. In the 19th and in the early 20th century, the idea of biological evolution easily blended with the idea of social, cultural and national progress. Characters of the next section of my book (Chapter 3, Part II) are actors of this multi-dimensional cultural discussion on the idea of evolution. They represent various beliefs and opinions that can be grouped as follows: 1.Followers of a thesis that principles of natural and cultural history are different and should not be intermingled. 2.Followers of a concept that cultural and natural history are grounded on a common, universal law and it is possible to describe them in unified terms. All of them use a historical category of change, but in different ways: Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the most important supporters of the evolution hypothesis, tried to distinguish between natural and cultural history by creating a metaphor of gardening. Society is a form of a garden: its basis is natural, but all actions applied there are artificial in nature. Charles Hodge was an eminent opponent of the evolution theory presented by Darwin and Huxley because of its rejection of teleology. He blended natural and cultural history by demanding an idea of the goal he believed to be necessary in any concept of evolution. Without it, the reality, as Hodge said, does not make any sense. John William Draper was a natural scientist and historian. In his concept of cultural history, he relied on the analogy with natural dynamics of life and death. Every historical item, in his opinion, has its birth, the moment of growth and an inevitable collapse. Relations between historical beings, such as states and organizations, are similar to those between animals in nature. The debate over the evolution hypothesis and the parallel methodological discussion in empiric philosophy and social sciences presets the game between historical and ahistorical, universalistic streams in the European culture. Historiography is a form of narration which is rooted in those streams. It can employ both historical and ahistorical conceptual categories. The strength of historiography lies in its flexibility and adaptability. The weakness of historiography is the lack of self-consciousness and the lack of knowledge about its own cultural foundations.
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