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Do implicit cultural biases, stereotypes, and even outright errors in Hegel's

Do implicit cultural biases, stereotypes, and even outright errors in Hegel's concrete historical claims about the past effect, in any serious way, the validity of his philophical views in general?

If Hegel relies on false observations about other cultures or false historical claims to make his arguments in the philosophy of history, then I would think that it would undermine those arguments. I suspect that those false claims do in fact serve as evidence for his views in the philosophy of history, which means that his views are indeed undermined.

But perhaps his false and distasteful historical and cultural claims are not meant as evidence for his theories, but illustrations of them. If so, then his claims are *again* weakened by his errors. For, if his theory makes predictions for phenomena that do not in fact obtain, then that would seem to suggest his theory is not satisfactory.

Finally, if his falsehoods are neither supporting his theories or supposed to stand as examples of the explanations those theories provide, then I suppose they would not weigh on his views, casting a bad light merely on his character.

But surely other readers of Hegel may disagree.

Do philosophers of history operate on any kind of different modes of thinking or

Do philosophers of history operate on any kind of different modes of thinking or inquiry as compared to professional historians? One question I'm struggling to understand is just when if ever does studying history lead to normative ethics for the present day on how to act towards certain groups?

Interesting! In order to practice and contribute to the philosophy of history, philosophers need to know both a wide range of works of history as well as to know about the methods employed by historians, but they do not need to be historians themselves. So, in your terms, philosophers of history need not use the same "modes of inquiry as compared to professional historians." The same is true in, say, philosophy of art in general or philosophy of biology. In philosophy of history general questions are raised about truth, testimony, the meaning of events, the nature of causation and historical explanation, and so on. Professional historians may presuppose a philosophy of truth (etc) but in constructing the history of the French Revolution (for example), they need not engage in any explicit reflection on alternative philosophies of truth, testimony, etc. As for history leading to normative ethics, matters are complex. Arguably the practice of history itself will rest on some value judgements (even if it is the vague judgement that some events are more interesting to study than others). But apart from the values that are assumed as the motive for doing history, the practice of history may be ethically illuminating in many ways, including:

History provides us with the opportunity to learn of (and from) the moral thinking of others. For a great book on this, see Thomas Carson's Lincoln's Ethics, Cambridge University press. Brilliant!

Historical accounts may inform our assigning responsibilities for good or ill in the present. We may, for example, discover that some of us today have duties of compensation owed to others.

Historians may uncover cultures and traditions that offer us today cogent or challenging teachings about values that we have neglected

History may provide us with patterns we can learn from. I think that the architects of the western incursion into Iraq could have learned the imprudence of this act based on the study of similar invasions.

That is only a beginning. For an excellent introduction to philosophy of history, see History and Theory; Contemporary Readings ed. by Brian Fay, P. Pomper, and R.T. Vann.

If someone were presented the option to permanently undo a major aspect of their

If someone were presented the option to permanently undo a major aspect of their own life, and "rewrite history", would it be morally wrong to do this? Consider the following scenario: a person dedicates their life to an ideal such as justice or peace or any morally sound ideal such as those. They sacrifice so much of their time, energy, life, and sanity to the fulfillment of this ideal. However, due to unforeseen circumstances their actions lead to an outcome they were unsatisfied with. Would it be wrong for this hypothetical person to change their entire life to avert this terrible fate?

Before I could consider the ethics of this scenario, I'd have to satisfy myself that it's a coherent scenario. Let's call the person in question "Jane." The scenario seems to require that something like the following be true: "Jane sacrificed much of her time and energy to achieve justice, but because her sacrificial actions led to an unsatisfying outcome Jane didn't sacrifice much of her time and energy to achieve justice." I can't see how such a scenario is comprehensible enough to be assessed ethically.

The question also arises whether Jane's sacrificial actions contributed so much to Jane's identity -- to who she now is -- that it's incoherent to ask what Jane's life would be like now had she not made those sacrifices: we wouldn't be asking about Jane but about a numerically different person.

Can historical value judgements be objective? Because questions presuppose other

Can historical value judgements be objective? Because questions presuppose other questions having been answered, it seems crucial to figure out what prior questions it assumes, and philosophy of history often boils down to the psychological motives of people and individuals which must involve interpretations and not just a listing of facts.

To begin with some of your observations and then move to your question: I believe you are quite right that history involves more than the listing of facts that might be more true of a chronicle than a history and the practice of history involves interpretation. While for some historians and in some philosophies of history psychological motives and individual agency are important, but for Marxist historians and a Marxist philosophy of history there is more of a stress on economic forces and social relations. I suggest that the more plausible philosophies of history recognize historical explanations as a species or type of causal explanation. So, in my view, an historical explanation of the French Revolution identifies elements persons, events the explain what happened in France in 1789 for example implying that if those elements had not occurred, the French Revolution would not have taken place. If the historian thinks the French Revolution WOULD have occurred any way, her primary explanation is nonetheless causal though it is on her account a sufficient but not necessary cause. Causal historical explanations may also involve a kind of over-determination. For example, in the USA today, the explanation of why Republicans oppose the current President's foreign policy may be both because of the content of the policy itself but also because they are the policies of a Democratic President. Either explanation alone can account for the stand taken by Republicans, but together both explanations may truly capture the current situation as well as explain the zeal behind the Republican's position --what you might refer to as their psychological motives.

After your question "Can historical value judgements be objective?" you write about "questions presuppose other questions" and you refer to identifying questions that have been answered. This suggests to me you are thinking that your first question presupposes a view of objective values and an answer to questions about how to distinguish objective from subjective values. I am not sure how to respond in the abstract, but I suggest that it is difficult to practice history without a commitment to value judgements about what to study, how to study events, and how to understand, and thus to some extent assess, individual agents and collective agency the action of nations, states, empires, cities, tribes. Take at random two historical questions, one which seems only to implicitly involves values: Did Marco Polo go to China *as he reports? and Did the Confederacy in the American Civil War leave the union and go to war to preserve and expand slavery? To answer either question one needs some theory of evidence and so this might involve a view of the value of evidence from some kind of objective point of view --that is, not relying on hunches or subjective preferences. So, such questions do require some kind of objective value judgements, I believe. The second question more explicitly invokes matters of value for it carries with it matters of praise and blame *perhaps praise for Lincoln and blame for the Confederacy. I suggest that the practice of history today implicitly involves a commitment to an impartial point of view. There would be something wrong about claiming that that a Confederate history and a Federal history of the Civil War --or the war between the states are equally valid true and incompatible e.g. it is both true and false that slavery was a war aim for the South.

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a

Can a person be a historian and a philosopher at the same time. I have a passion for history and a joint passion for Philosophy? Nathan V.

Yes The clearest case of when you would need to be both a historian and a philosopher is when you write a history of philosophy. Expertise in both fields would also be highly valuable in writing philosophy of history. Apart from these two categories, the blending of philosophy and history (or the virtues of being both a philosopher and a historian) may vary.

Consider matters from the standpoint of history: When would a history (or a historian) be aided by philosophy?

Because one may write a history of any number of things (persons, events...) from a history of warfare to a history of agriculture, it may not be obvious when philosophy comes into play. Off hand, it seems that some philosophy will be inevitable in any history insofar as the history reflects a view (or a philosophy) of evidence, explanation, relevance, reasons and causes. But there are cases when philosophy seems more explicit as in a history of the French revolution versus a history of the first cities in the world.

From the standpoint of philosophy: When would philosophy (or philosophers) be aided by history? Some historical grounding seems important in even the most abstract philosophical matters (the philosophy of mathematics, for example), but there are philosophical questions that seem less sensitive to historical conditions. Arguably, questions about whether there can be an actual infinite does not depend (or depend significantly) on the time or place they are raised. Arguments about infinity are not merely of academic interest, but they have been employed by many philosophers (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) in arguments for the existence of God.

Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to

Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to honor the past and honor the fact that, but for those who came before, we wouldn't be where we are today, and another thing entirely to pretend that those "classic" thinkers and thoughts of the past are worthy of the scrutiny of self-respecting truth-seekers today. If I'm being honest, the Pre-Socratic writings are simply idiotic by today's standards, claiming matter is all "water", or "fire", or some other random element. Leibniz, Spinoza, and those guys aren't any better. None of them had even the most rudimentary concept of physics. JS Mill and Kant read like some High Schooler, discoursing at length about Happiness and motivation without even a whiff of suspicion about the basic facts of psychology, treating those terms as if they were transparently obvious, monolithic concepts. Even an idea like the more recently vaunted Veil of Ignorance seems ludicrously vulnerable to someone of even mediocre intelligence, like me. It...

I can't resist piping up to defend Rawls's Veil of Ignorance. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls anticipates and rebuts the questioner's objection. The deliberators behind the Veil of Ignorance are choosing the most general principles of justice that will govern their society, and hence they have no basis for the specific prediction that a given principle will make "90% of people happy and 10% utterly miserable": as Rawls says, behind the Veil of Ignorance such numerical estimates "are at best extremely insecure" (p. 154). Given that insecurity, Rawls argues that it would be irrational for you to risk being among the utterly miserable, particularly if your gain in happiness (compared to what you'd experience in a less unequal society) is small compared to what you'd lose if you end up among the utterly miserable. His argument may not be conclusive, but I don't think it's as easily dismissed as the questioner suggests.

Are there any histories of philosophy that focus on the ideas of the

Are there any histories of philosophy that focus on the ideas of the philosophers in their effort to philosophically ground ideas about the universe that reveal it as profound, mysterious, or divine? I sometimes I think that histories of philosophy gloss over the more obscure religious and metaphysical thinking of philosophers and they don't really elucidate the gravity and spiritual ambitions behind those philosophers ideas and instead focus on their technical significance. (Spinoza was doing far more than just healing a contradiction in Descartes's concept of finite being for example) Those few things I've read that do talk about the spiritual ideas of great philosophers of the past however just state those great ideas without any reference to the intellectual basis the philosophers had for making those claims. I want a real philosophical introduction to the history of "profound" thinking about the universe that actually attempts to elucidate the grounds of their thinking.

Great question. Some philosophers seem to have deliberately sought to secularize the story of philosophy. I think this is probably true in the case of John Dewey (even though he did praise a naturalistic piety or "religious sensibility"). A classic, intro history to philosophy, Will Durran't The Story of Philosophy glides over the whole medieval era, Many philosophers both during his life time and today, seem (in my mind) to utterly miss or underestimate the deep sense of mystery that runs through the work of Wittgenstein. There is a wonderful overview of Wittgenstein's spirituality in the opening chapters of Kai-man Kwan's The Rainbow of Experiences, Critical Trust and God.

In terms of histories: Copleston wrote a multi-volume history of philosophy that is fair minded, and (as himself a Roman Catholic thinker) he is keen to explore matters of the divine, deep questions of values and their role in the universe. Anthony Kenny is probably the greatest living historian of philosophy, and he, too, is very exercised by religious themes and the religious implications of different accounts of the mind and the world. Although he was trained as a philosopher, Elliade Mircea (1907-86) focussed most of his life of the history of religion. But you will find him exploring a number of ideas that you appear to want to engage; I recommend beginning with his Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return. Around 50 years ago or so Stephen Pepper wrote an interesting book on World Hypotheses that you might find engaging. He explores different root metaphors that can be used to shed light on different conceptions of the cosmos.

This might be a history question as much as a philosophy question but is there

This might be a history question as much as a philosophy question but is there something profoundly distinct about the 20th and late 20th century that represents a distinct break from the past that is unlike any other break from the past in terms of its general significance? I honestly feel that is the case but then perhaps every century has felt that way.

No doubt many people feel, particularly around the turns of centuries, that something big/new/different is unfolding. But whether something big etc IS unfolding is probably only something that can be appreciated in retrospect, historically, long after the fact -- by historians, as you suggest. We tend to look back and see major shifts (cultural, intellectual, political etc) with the rise of the renaissance, and then the enlightenment -- whether that is just our tendency to carve things up into neat categories and narratives in retrospect, or in fact reflect "real changes", is a matter for the historians and philosophers of history to debate ... So to respond to your question more directly: first you must specify exactly the ways in whcih you think the 20th century marks a distinct break (cultural, intellectual, political, esp. technological i'm sure). Then you must meanignfully, on the basis of historical research, examine the kinds of distinct breaks earlier periods have displayed -- and then you must compare them! .... (What do you mean by 'general significance', after all? How do you even compare in any quantitative way the 'significance' of (say) the rise and spread of Christianity in the early centuries of the C.E. with the rise/spread of technology, electricity, the computer, in the late 20th? Why must we even attempt to rank these things in the first place?)

hope that's useful --


Is there any scientific evidence that history proceeds in dialectical fashion

Is there any scientific evidence that history proceeds in dialectical fashion ala Marx and Hegel?

I do not have the scientific or historical chops to answer you adequately, but the question made me smile - the dialectical thinker discovers the dialect everywhere - evidence be damned! I love Hegel and yet I am sad to report that as I look at the news, especially current political discourse, I am dismayed. Where is the Aufhebung in a filibuster? I look forward to other replies!

I've been in education of some kind for over fifteen years now, and over these

I've been in education of some kind for over fifteen years now, and over these years I've had many history classes, concerning a variety of topics. Something strange happens in all of them, though - without exception, the classes never seem to spend more than a single session on anything that happened after the 1950s. In high school, we had a single class to talk about the Cold War; two other years of history didn't even go that far, except in the broadest of strokes with mentions of decolonialism. In a college course on American history, our last session was the origins and beginnings of the civil rights movement, with nothing beyond that. The social, technological, political and ideological shifts in the past half-century seem to be deemed unworthy of teaching. Why is this? Aren't the social and technological developments of the last sixty or seventy years at least as critical to the understanding of modern society as the sum of all that came before? What is the importance of teaching the history...

I've always thought it would be interesting to do a history course in reverse. Start with the later events (beginning in present) and have students consider what history might have looked like to lead to these later events, working backwards as far as possible. I always hated that my history classes ended before things got interesting (where "interesting" means, you know, when I am on the scene).

(If you are ever in DC, the Newseum offers some good exhibits to learn recent history.)