A science of history?
September 27th, 2018 •
The question of a science of history has been indirectly critiqued by Kant and his analysis is one reason, next to the obvious evidence of the data, that we have introduced the unique innovation of post-theory: the distinction of system action and free action, or free agency. The result is very complex but the basic point is clear.
But in general the eonic model is very peculiar in the sense that it points to a non-random pattern and then is forced to conclude that we see only the phenomenal aspect of something that may correspond to the noumenal. This is an undesirable conclusion for reductionist science, but it is easy to show using our discrete/continuous model that causal succession doesn’t work with the data we have. We detect a non-random pattern. Strictly speaking that is all that we can conclude, but the next steps of interpretative chronology and hypotheses (about the evidence, not quite theories) are as inevitable as the lack of full rigor. But we can turn this to our advantage. More than anything else we must at least realize that while the eonic model may lack full rigor it points to what is probably the only way to analyze history. The evidence simply won’t allow any longer the conventional forms of analysis. We are stuck with the eonic effect, whatever we conclude about the model. We can devise a remedy a a series of questions, hypotheses with a warning about the high probability of getting historical (evolutionary) questions wrong. It is essential to face this fact: the whole legacy of historical materialism is that of a failed theory.
For example, in this minimalist approach we can, instead of claiming that history shows teleology (or directionality) simply ask if on the basis of the eonic effect we should be wary of anti-teleological assumptions, and point to the way a discrete series shows directionality. One value of our model is that it can reconcile the contradiction between directionality and free agency, and, even better, show how we have exited the dynamical aspect of larger history into a post-eonic sphere of free agency, or so we suspect. The truly beautiful property of the eonic model of the eonic effect is that in a discrete continuous series you exit from the dynamic to your own free agency: we don’t need to analyze the system to a theory to proceed. We deal only with the macro effects of the (last) transition (with remaining traces of all previous), e.g the ‘properties’ of modernism: reformation, science, art, literature, politics. We see for example that ‘democracy’ emerges in the early modern: we don’t need a theory of the eonic effect to see the correlation and the implication, which we have already adopted, that realizing democracy is our historical task or best option (unless we are reactionaries, of course, but ant-modernism is a hopeless failure because we can see that our macro effect is anti-conservative, if not directly ideological, in the way that it shows directionality, induces innovations and moves aggressively against the past.
We should note that our association of communism with this pattern is interpretative and not exclusive: the modern transition clearly operates with a spectrum of possibilities and it is endorses democracy, so to speak, but also an implication of socialism next to that of liberalism. Our system action operates in a range of potentials and our free agency does the best that it can. The quite late appearance of Marx/Engles and the revolutionary communist movement (notwithstanding the early birth of communism in the early modern with Munzer and More) seems to come just after or straddling the so-called divide. That is good and bad: good because it subject to our free agency, bad because we are deceived in thinking our foundational modernity is purely our own creation and this was a problem with bolshevism which was a crude and debilitating construct not equal to the task of social creation.
So the model gives us a warning: unless we can operate at the level of the eonic effect, and we can’t as yet, in the creation of hypercomplex effects, e.g. great art, etc, we are going to risk the superficial. But we have no real choice but to try and to learn. Note the way the Axial Age degenerated into a medieval morass. That would be our fate unless we can learn to operate at the level of the eonic effect. A superhuman task, but perhaps we must ‘evolve’ to the superhuman! Whatever the case the point is clear that our agnostic approach is still far superior to the phony science of things like darwinism, and the historiography of Big History.
We have in fact a truly apt guide here in the work of Kant on history, with his challenge to resolve its enigma. This framework clearly impinges directly on what we have discovered. We don’t have the full solution, but we must suspect that our discrete/continuous model reflects the Kantian distinction of noumenal and phenomenal, a possibility that suggests why we don’t see the hidden dynamic behind our transitions. We can’t evade this enforced agnosticism, therefore, and it is a least a positive that our approach enforces our realization of our ignorance.
And it is important to learn the lesson: everyone, EVERYONE, has gotten history wrong, scientists, biologists, darwinists, marxists, religionists, everyone. The Israelites remarkably had a sense of the Axial Age, but their interpretation was a hopeless failure in the end.
Our approach can also be called a failure, but only as to theory: instead it hugs the mainline of the evidence, by and large and allows us to operate with limited information in our present to future. And it implies we must graduate to our own ‘history creation’ as free agents. We have devised a method for dealing with the failure of theory with a robust chronology which can be givem dynamical interpretation, but if not we know how to proceed in the rough.