Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Preliminaries: Directionality of History

Before I get into analyzing the specifics of what I think the longer term issues are [I shall delve] into a necessary preliminary [to make] my overall worldview of history and society explicit.

The first of these is that I view history as progressing, though not necessarily to an end point.  This is not dissimilar to Kant's notion of crooked wood, things get generally better in the long run but not every given change is for the better, sometimes we regress.

That said, I don't necessarily believe that every aspect of life is necessarily getting better at the same time, sometimes a regression can be necessary for progress in other areas.  For instance, I think many aspects of modern life are probably alienating people from the kind of sense of community that people in past eras enjoyed, and this is an inevitable consequence of the limits of modern technology and social organization.  However, given longer lifespans and that now the vast majority of children reach adulthood I don't see how you can really make an argument that things have gotten worse.  After all, you have to have life to render judgment, a society that lets more people live is better within reasonable limits (maximizing population to the point where no one has more than the bare minimum to live would be an example of an unreasonable stretch).

So you can call it what you will, divine will, a learning process, historical forces, conscious human choice, social evolution, or whatever else makes sense in your worldview, but I think it is hard to deny that there is some kind of progress to history, it's not simply relative nor is it a matter of conforming to known rules.  We're progressing towards an unknown future that will be better than today, though we have to be careful not to fool ourselves into taking a step backwards or deceiving ourselves into thinking we know exactly where we're supposed to go.  If we knew that, someone would have got there already.

[Edits made for clarity.  Credit to g cross for catching it.]


  1. Tz,

    Good post, but it looks like you dropped a couple of key words in the first sentence, which normally isn't a big deal but in this case it forced me to re-read it a few times. For the benefit of future readers, can you retroactively correct the first sentence so that it looks something like:

    "Before I get into analyzing the specifics of what I think the longer term issues are, *I shall delve into* a necessary preliminary *to make* my overall worldview of history and society explicit."