Пишу, думаю, читаю.
I write, think, read.
Essay “Impossible philosophy of history”
Let begin with the most easy things. The first one is that history is all what happened. That means all this was in the past and therefore will stay there forever. Alas, but time’s curve isn’t returnable so we aren’t able to retrieve whatever we want thence and thus change there something and all what we can is only to remember or not what occurred then.
The second. In fact history is the only thing we have. The past is wast, immense and huge, the present is thin, even almost intangible or recognizable and the future isn’t yet existent though it’s nascent in our hearts or around. That leads to the claim that all we feel up to study is to ponder namely history not some other subject in time.
The third and a little bit paradoxical. Despite previous consideration the only time we possess is now. Because we can’t live in the future even dreaming about it, and in the past as well notwithstanding we have memories. Every time we think about something which will go ahead or already went off we nevertheless are situated in the present. And this has very interesting consequences but about them shortly.
The forth and more difficult. History isn’t as many think one thing but many which to all other can and in fact often changes during the time. On the one hand it tells about many persons or phenomena, on the other and more crucially it’s able to utter about them very differently – in fact as we wish to narrate them. That’s why every new political regime rewrites history textbooks. The present must look as it were the necessary result of what preceded it.
The fifth. What follows from the preceding paragraph there’s always someone or something – but in this case it was built by any person – who tells us the or a history. The latter is simply dumb, but in no way deaf. This means each time we have to have at all and believe immensely somebody who knows or just pretends to be aware about what, how, to whom and where something occurred. It’s great when we have some alternative versions or proofs but when this isn’t the case it’s as it’s easy to guess utterly bad.
The sixth. Of course a story may be told by many things such as stones, trees, seas and so on but the act of interpretation always belongs to us that’s people. It’s not bad but since we all have many biases and proclivities which we aren’t able to avoid though knowing about them not even mentioning absolutely concretely constructed human bodies it becomes problem. We see, hear, smell, touch and sometimes taste only that we can and only in a way we might explain it to ourselves.
The seventh. Even worse. Each of us has his or her own point of view. They correspond to be sure in some details and to some degree it’s true but there are many situations when they’re almost opposite even hostile to each other. Thence the question – who must tell stories? It’s perennial problem of a judge because we have many such cases be they in sport, art, even essay contests. Alas, we don’t possess criteria to choose right person or their group.
The eighth. However big or deep were our knowledge of history it always suffers from many and inexorable lacks, shortcomings, gaps etc. Honestly and roughly speaking we simply don’t know everything whether it concerns ourselves, Universe we inhabit or in our case history of whatsoever. It doesn’t mean we wit or contemplate nothing but it’s very difficult to judge what is bigger – our ignorance or our knowledge.
The ninth. Right now as well as yesterday or in more deep past we do and did history just living on this planet or in this Universe. History’s never ending quite the opposite it’s constantly floating. So he we have two problems. The first one we’re entangled in what we try to tell therefore having special interests, motifs, wishes and so on. The second one boils down to the fact that we’re far worse in describing dynamical instead of statical systems.
And the tenth. History as it was just mentioned is a system. Specialists know this but ignore because it would be gargantuan work just to tell about only one war or event meaning all details, agents, places, circumstances which made the deal. But we all are aware there were too many occasions in the past. After all nobody is omniscient so historians prefer to learn some chunk of history ignoring all others. But even worse every system has its own and utterly intricate structure what means all its participants are anyway connected to each other as in an effect of butterfly. Had we computer of Universe size it would be of no use because system is too complicated.
So what we have? All these points tell us that in fact we are able simply stutter about history not mentioning talk about it seriously and in needed detail. Nevertheless namely this we do everyday and on every occasion. What’s happening?
Leaving laypeople aside – in the end they aren’t aware about these points, except of some – there are professionals who dedicated their lives and infrequently reputation telling stories about history even trying to find in it some laws, determinism or regularities which let us to ponder about its essence, direction and even crux. Does history have all this stuff? Before answering this question it’s useful to view in some detail the very philosophy. What is it?
First of all ordinary people usually mistake when think they can do it. What they consider as philosophy is in the best case just ruminating about some problems and questions using common sense at the best and nothing more. But there are some people who are real philosophers and we need to understand who they are and what they’re doing.
When I tell my students what philosophy is I offer them four variants of an answer. The first one it’s science, the most old and ancient, some sort of methodology of thinking. The second one it’s again science but now because it has all characteristics all other sciences have too. The third one it’s some sort of pondering about this world or just some special even odd mode of living thus it’s not obligatory science. And the last but not the least one it’s an art. Personally I prefer the last two but you can choose what you want. What’s important however is that in all these answers we find one common trait. It’s some sort, mode or style of thinking.