Philosophy of History

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Philosophy of History

Reagan Parker, Contributor

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“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” These are the wise words of King Solomon, the Old Testament writer of multiple books, including proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes, from where this quote has been taken. Today’s topic of philosophy lies solely in history, and this branch is simply known as “Philosophy of History”. Now, to pinpoint all of history into one philosophical theme that will go undisputed will not only take endless pages of rigorous thoughts from many much wiser men than I, but it is undoubtedly impossible, so therefore, I will not attempt this. The mere goal of this article is to provide a fundamental view on why history is important philosophically and how it is to be used.

With this in mind, King Solomon’s quote is the perfect place to begin. If one looks at the world today and then studies history, how people act and how things come to be, there really is “nothing new under the sun”. From the formation of Western Civilization in ancient Mesopotamia to however recent history one views, human nature remains consistent and events follow the same cycles. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, “The concept of history plays a fundamental role in human thought. It invokes notions of human agency, change, the role of material circumstances in human affairs, and the putative meaning of historical events. It raises the possibility of ‘learning from history.'” History calls for deep consideration of what has taken place under the sun and for application of that thought into society. Another source correctly states, “History examines not what things are so much as how they came to be. History focuses on the unique rather than the general. Its movers are most often people who act for a variety of inner motives rather than purely physical forces” (www.iep.utm.edu). How many people of pure brawn have driven history to any great extent? Possibly Samson or some Greek Heroes, if these existed, but even these had intentions and intellect which gave power to bring about the course of events. the history books and records are filled to the brim of men who have acted tyrannically with power to secure some pleasure or desire, or of men who conquer some land, or of people who made amazing discoveries, sacrifices, and so on. These things are by no means absent today. Examine American slavery and its extraordinary similarity to the controversial abortion debate, or take a glance at the swinging pendulum of the world as it shifts from Romanticism to Enlightenment and back again, or study the personal lives of great or common men in comparison to the lives of people today. Even the birthday cake tradition has existed since ancient Rome!

Therefore, if history is a repetition of similar events and sentiments, then its application, as before stated, is tremendous. Whether one is surveying philosophy from the great philosophers or thinkers, studying theology, finding causes and effects, solving economic issues or political problems, or whatever it may be, history will have the answers, that is in the realm of social interactions, communications, or humanity based topics (not so much in the scientific realm). If this is true, then how should one study history to receive the greatest gain? If one desires to learn anything for a specific cause, not all of history will be of use, so there is no set and stone way to study history. But, when it comes to humanity or worldwide events, the most beneficial study is the characters behind the great scene: how and why they act. Socrates was convicted of his lack of knowledge, so he questions men who eventually put him to death. Cicero is assassinated for valuing his conscience and not giving certain politicians his support. William Wilberforce was driven by his Christianity to abolish slavery in England. Robert E. Lee fights for the Confederate because he would not by any means fight against his own brothers, since he himself was a southerner. One can go on and on and always find great or terrible men driven by intellect, desire, religion, sentiments of other sorts, and so on. Philosophy of History is founded in such people, thus, they are the object to be studied. It cannot be too far off to say that philosophy is assessment of history, finding its essence there.

 

 

 

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+1%3A9&version=ESV

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/history/

https://www.iep.utm.edu/history/

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Reagan Parker, Contributor

I am Reagan Parker, a junior here at Ben Franklin. I enjoy singing and am in Charged Harmonies, and I also play on the varsity basketball team. I play...

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