18th Century (Eighteenth Century) Philosophy of HistoryJuly 1, 2021
At the beginning of the 18th century, which is also called the “Century of Enlightenment”, the skepticism of the previous centuries continued to a certain extent; meanwhile, it is seen that this skepticism is gradually decreasing and even a special importance and interest in history has started.
While the 18th century was trying to overcome the skepticism of the 17th century with its deep belief in progress and its trust in a science that takes “natural science” as an example; On the other hand, he started to give special importance to every effort to develop national consciousness, meanwhile national historiography. Undoubtedly, from the point of view of the theoria – historia, philosophy – history opposition set by the ancient age and partly by the new age, it is clear that the 18th century did not reach a general judgment that there was a complete progress in history, on an epistemological basis.
But 18th century. Just as medieval theoria – historia, philosophy tried to overcome the opposition of history through theological belief, it tried to overcome the same opposition through a secular belief in progress. 18th century indeed. It was the century that first used the term philosophy of history by bringing together the concepts of philosophy and history, which were kept separate and opposed to each other throughout the history of philosophy.
1.1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
It is clear that Rousseau is a philosopher of history in two respects: 1. In history; He sees an inevitable process from being natural to becoming a cultural property, 2. Although he stated that people can shape history with their own free will, he was the person who influenced all the great history philosophies of the 19th century.
1.2. Giambattista Vico
Before Rousseau, it is seen that Giambattista Vico also stated that the ancient age, with a similar view to the cyclical understanding of history, of which we will see in the future in Spengler and Toynbee, stated that there were eras revolving in history, and that these eras followed each other with a cartwheel movement. There are many who consider him a philosopher of history.
1.3. Voltaire (Francois Marie Arounet)
He was the first to use the term “philosophy of history”. According to him, there is nothing to be expected from church historiography. Instead, a “rational historiography” is needed, that is, a historiography that will give a “natural explanation” of historical events.
Historical events do not carry causality like natural events.
First of all, historical events should be seen as “one-time realities”, “unique and non-recurring events”.
The main task of the philosophy of history is to present the unique unity of the ages and periods, which will not be repeated again, as the moments when humanity is realized in the history of humanity.
In his most famous work, “Reflections on the Philosophy of Human History” (1785-1792), he states that the first condition for seeking an “objectivity” in history is to get rid of the illusion of seeing historical events as regular and repetitive phenomena under natural laws. There are no laws of nature that would enable us to grasp history as a “whole”. He thinks like Wegelin in this regard. According to him, what should be understood by the “totality” in history is not something that can be explained “theoretically” under the laws or categories that are considered to be general-valid for all “world history”. It is futile to seek such laws and categories in history. We cannot turn to history with laws and categories created by considering the continuity and repetition of natural phenomena.
On the other hand, there are no fixed “ideas” that can give continuity and repetition to historical events. Because these “ideas” to which people and societies are attached also change in every age and every period. ‘Up to this point, it can be said that Herder has to some extent adopted the traditional theoria-historian opposition.
But, according to Herder, this does not mean that history consists of “chaos”. At this point, the pantheist Herder looks at history as “the field of vision of an understanding that directs the earth, that is, of divinity”. According to this view, which we will encounter later in Hegel, there is a “plan”, “orderliness” and “totality” in history as well. But it can never be grasped by him. Because the only man himself is an actor who takes part in “a certain episode” of the play staged according to this divine plan, and therefore he cannot see the whole play, its beginning and end. Thus ‘history as a whole’ appears to him as a ‘complex labyrinth’ in which he is stuck in a corner. If he is to seek a “generality” in “this limitless diversity of history”, he can find it only in the idea of ”harmony” (harmonie). He can only believe that in this “wholeness”, which will never be open to him, there is a “harmony” set by God. Because, according to Herder, “the limitation of my place on earth, the blindness in my vision, the mistakes in my goals… all these show that I am nothing, but the whole is everything.”