You are on page 1of 19

Some Problems and Methods in the History of Ideas

Author(s): Philip P. Wiener


Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1961), pp. 531-548
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2708029 .
Accessed: 12/11/2012 14:58
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

University of Pennsylvania Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
Journal of the History of Ideas.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

SOME PROBLEMS AND METHODS IN THE


HISTORY OF IDEAS *
BY

PHILIP

P. WIENER

Now, in Greek,the word methodmeans a way, or path, of transit.


Hence the firstidea of Methodis a progressive
transition
fromone step
in any courseto another;and wherethe wordMethodis appliedwith
reference
to manysuchtransitions
in continuity,
it necessarily
impliesa
Principleof UnityWithProgression.
But that whichunites,and makeis
manythingsone in the Mind of Man, mustbe an act of the Mind itself.
... This act oftheMind,then,thisleadingthought,
this"keynote"ofthe
harmony,this "subtle, cementingsubterraneous"
power, borrowinga
phrasefromthe nomenclature
of legislation,
we may not inaptlycall the
Initiativeof all Method.t

The purposeand scope of any intellectualdisciplineare most


clearlydefined
bythesortofproblems
discussedandinvestigated,
the
distinctive
of interpretation
principles
appliedto the facts,and the
methodsused fortestinghypotheses.
All of these-problems,
principles,and methods-varyin time,as do the classifications
of knowledge.A historyof suchclassifications
of sciencesand artsfromthe
studyof encyclopedias,
dictionaries,
journals,and text-books
would
showwhatsubjectswereregardedin any periodas mostimportant,
whatideas and problems
mostworthy
of beingpublishedor taught.
Professor
Lovejoyin the firstnumberof the firstvolumeof the
Journalof the Historyof Ideas'1 emphasized
theinterdisciplinary
and
ancillarycharacterof the problems,
and methodsof the
principles,
of ideas.The generalproblemwas to discoverwhatrelationhistory
ships,if any,existedamonggeneralideas pervasiveof the various
fieldsofhistorical
inquiry.Illustrations
of suchrecurrent
and fundamentalideasin thehistoryof literature
and the arts,of naturalsciences and philosophy,
social and religiousmovements
werelisted:

mechanism,organicism,continuity,gradation,plenitude,etc. One of

the chiefproblemsof methodthatstillarousescontroversial


discus-

sion is the problemof isolating"unit-ideas,"as Lovejoy called them,


fromthe kaleidoscopiccongeriesof ideas and organicculturalmatrices
in whichideas undergometamorphosesin the historyof the arts and
sciences. Protagonistsof so-called organicisttheories of mind and
culturalhistoryobjected to the alleged atomismof Lovejoy's method.

* Thispaperwas presented
beforetheFirstMeetingoftheInternational
Society
fortheHistoryof Ideas,heldat Peterhouse,
Cambridge
University,
Aug.31, 1960.
t Quotedby Miss Lore Metzgerin her "Coleridge'sVindicationof Spinoza"
[J.H.I.,XXI, 2 (April1960),280] fromColeridge's
Notebook25, fol.120 (British
MuseumAdd.MS. 47,523): Treatiseon Method.
1 A. 0. Lovejoy,"Reflections
on theHistoryof Ideas,"J.H.l.,I (1940), 3-20.
531

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

532

PHILIP

P. WIENER

is simplya convenient
Now an atomistic
methodology
logicalwayof
its modifications
in culturalspace and time.
tracingan idea through
Curiouslyenough,atomismin thehumanor behavioralscienceshas
whereasthe organicist
debeen accusedof excessiveindividualism
fenders
ofthewholeness
oftheindividual
havebeenchargedwiththe
totalitarian
tendency
to subordinate
theindividualto a greater
whole,
suchas thestateor theworldspiritor a classlesssociety.
the originalformand meaningof
The problemof distinguishing
sourcesfromlateraccretionsaftertheyare editedor
documentary
is the perpetualproblemof all
or distilledby historians
interpreted
criticalhistoricalresearch.Now,the historianof ideas is subjectto
historianwhosefootnotes
are
the same disciplineas the responsible
thefacts of his science.Yet we cannotin our subjectseparatefacts
ofideas.The textwhichinterprets
thefootnotes
frominterpretations
Ourinterpretations
aretherefore
givesthemtheirmeaning.
subjectto
as are neededto communiand philosophical
suchliterary
principles
cate and explicatethe factsin thispeculiarinterdisciplinary
study.
in thehistoriography
ofideas,I meanthestyle
By literary
principles
ofavoidingtoo technicala jargonor
thenecessity
ofcommunication,
specializedvocabularyused in only one fieldof science,art, philosophy,or theology.An interdisciplinary
studycannotrelyon a
used and recognizable
terminology
exclusively
onlyby a smallnumAn essentialpartof the taskof interrelating
berof specialists.
ideas
is the effort
to translateor to comparecritically
historically
varied
of the sameidea or misleading
linguistic
expressions
identicalwords
fordifferent
ideas.2Lovejoy'spenetrating
on
Essays
the History of
Ideas and his classicalstudyoftheidea oftheGreatChainof Being
amplyillustratebothpoints.His parallelbetweendeismand classicismin XVIIIth-century
literature
and philosophy
showshowwriters
in different
fieldswereusingdifferent
wordsto expressthe same or
similarideasof "order"and "simplicity"
whether
in naturaltheology
or poetry.On theotherhand,Lovejoyhas madehis greatestcontributionin callingattentionto the need fordiscriminating
the many
meaningsof the same word,e.g. "nature,""romanticism,"
"pragmatism,"evenat thecostofdepriving
themofemotionalhalos.
The veryword"idea" has manymeaningsand each of theseits
ownhistory.
Failureto distinguish
thesemeaningscan easilylead to
methodological
confusion.
"Ideas" mean:
(a) whateveris seen by the mindin the originalGreeksense of
"idein,"(cf.video in Latin); so Platohad Socratescontemplating
the
ideas of friendship,
courage,temperance,
justice,and beauty,as one
transfixed
by a vision;
2 Cf. G.

Boas, "SomeProblemsof Intellectual


History,"Studiesin Intellectual
History(Baltimore,
1953),3-21.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

533

confronts
(b) whatever
themindwhenit perceives
or thinks-sensations of qualities,feelings,impressions,
memoryimages,or compoundsof these-the meaningof "ideas" in Britishterminism
or
nominalism.
The "plainhistoricalmethod"forLockemeanttaking
stockintrospectively
of thevariouskindsof suchideas "ofsensation
andreflection,
simpleandcomplex,
etc.";
(c) "ideal"-the questionin the Parmenideswhetherdirt,hair,etc.
have ideas suggeststhatthedistinction
betweena logicallycoherent
"idea" and a humanly
in Platonism;
desirable"ideal"oftendisappears
(d) beliefsor judgments-e.g.the idea of the primitive
goodnessof
manbeforehe was spoiledbycivilization,
theidea thatprogress
is inevitable,orthatall history
is classstruggle.
Senses(c) and (d) of "idea" as ideal and as beliefare opposedto
senses(a) and (b) of ideas epistemologically,
because(a) and (b),
intuitions
and images,referto immediate
whereas(c) and
experience
(d), the desiredideal and the hypothetical
belief,are moremediatedby abstractsymbolsor concepts.The historian
ofideas can find
and mustseeknotonlywritten
documents
fortheidealsand beliefs
ofan age butwillseekalso theiconographic
evidenceofthearts.For
example,paintings
of consumptives
in theXIXth century
showhow
menand the publicforwhomtheywerewriting
literary
reactedto
medicaltheoriesof Pasteurand Koch, undoubtedly
withoutunderstandingthem.
Now thehistory
ofideasis nota pureor originaldiscipline
but a
compositive
or derivative
one,becauseit is dependent
on otherdisciplineswhosebordersit penetrates.
We assumethatmenfirst
have to
thinkandtalkabouttheworldin whichtheyhaveto surviveand find
waysof creatingor modifying
thesocialand artisticformstheypass
on to thenextgeneration.
So faras recorded
historygoes,thereare
always symbols(whethergestural,pictorial,verbal, or abstract
forms)expressing
the life of ideas beforemen take noticeof the
changesin theseideas as worthy
ofseparatetelling.
Aristotle's
firstbookof his so-calledMetaphysics
is a classicexampleof the historyof philosophic
ideas. It is not onlythe richest
sourceof ourknowledge
of pre-Socratic
cosmologies-man's
firstscientific
guessesat theriddleof theuniverse-butis also an excellent
illustration
of the derivative
natureand of someof the problemsof
the historyof ideas.3We all knowthat Aristotle,
like his teacher
Plato,tracedthegeneticgrowth
ofthemoregeneralideas thatenter
intoknowledge
fromtheindividual's
sense-experiences
andmemories,
fusedin techneand episteme,so that knowledgeof the universal
comesafterknowing
howindividualthingsbehavein ourexperience.
3Cf. H. Cherniss,"The History of Ideas and Ancient Greek Philosophy" in
Studies in IntellectualHistory (Baltimore,1953), 39-42.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

534

PHILIP

P. WIENER

All theoriesof knowledge


thebasicAristotelian
recognize
distinction
betweenwhatis firstin theorderofnature,"first
in itself,"and what
is firstin the orderof knowing,
"firstforus." Well,the historyof
ideasis facedwiththeproblemofnotingwhichideashavebeentaken
as "first"
in thetwoorders.
Anycomparative
of "firstness"
studyof different
in
conceptions
thethought
ofvariousperiodsrevealshowsuchideas,employed
often
as unconscious
contexts.Was thisnot the
axioms,varyin different
sort of questionAristotleasked himselfabout the pre-Socratics,
namely,whydidsucheminent
minds,in fact,wholeschoolsofserious
arriveat suchdiverseconceptions
thinkers,
of the firstprinciples
of
theuniverseas Water,Air,Fire,theIndefinite,
theOne,Unchanging
Being,Becoming,
Number,Atoms,Chance,PurposiveMind,etc.?
One ofthemarvellous
ofthestudyofthehistory
achievements
of
ideasis thatit makesit possibleto reconstruct
of
partofthethinking
mindsthatlivedovertwentycenturies
ago. That achievement
is as
greata tributeto themindof homosapiensas his fathoming
of the
starsand atoms;it is evenmoredifficult,
sincethe starsand atoms
are stillhereto be consulted,
butthethoughts
ofAristotle
and ofhis
colleaguescan only be pieced togetherfromfragments,
too often
mutilated
bytheravagesoftimeand editors.Hereagaintheproblem
of criticalexamination
of the textsis fundamental.
Documentslike
Aristotle's
editedMetaphysics
or logicaltreatisesrequirethe knowledgeof a Greekscholar,a philosopher,
and a historian.
For example,
it is an amazingfact that only recentlythe distinguished
Polish
logicianand philosopher
Lukaciewiczdiscovered,
aftera critical,historicalinvestigation
of the textsof Aristotle's
logicalwritings,
that
forover2000yearsAristotle's
theoryof the syllogism
has beenmisin the textbooksfromwhichphilosophers
represented
have studied
logicsinceancienttimes.To recoverAristotle's
originalideas,when
all we haveareeditedversions
ofstudents'
notesofAristotle's
"golden
streamofdiscourse,"
meanscriticalstudyofeditors'arrangements
of
the texts,Syriac,Hebrew,Arabic,and Latin translations,
scholastic
commentaries,
and modernized
versions.The problemof individualismmightfinda niceexamplehereofthedifficulty
ofreconstructing
theindividualAristotle,
maestrodi colorchesanno,pupiland friend
of Plato but a greaterfriendof truth,tutorof Alexanderthe Great,
the man wholeftprovisions
in his willforhis secondwife,uncleof
the greatbotanistTheophrastus,
etc.The problemof the individual
was formulated
in Aristotle's
theoryoftheunionofformand matter,
soulandbody,and in hisepistemology.
We can knowonlyuniversals,
but all ourknowledge
beginswithindividualexperiences.
The infant
knowsall menas "Father,"Aristotle
remarked
in orderto illustrate
thesensein whichuniversals
shapeknowledge
fromthestart.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

535

but not qua the uniIndividuumest ineffabile,


qua individuum
versalqualitieswhichmustbe presentin individuals
iftheyare to be
in history.
The problemof uniknownand talkedaboutor recorded
ofideas.In
versalsacquiresa particular
forthehistorian
importance
orderto writea history
ofan idea,mustnotthehistorian
assumethat
thereis an invariantuniversalidea whichundergoes
transformation
in varioushistorical
contexts?
So Aristotle
tracedtheidea ofmaterial
Substanceor primematterin the pre-Socratics
fromThales to
what he had disEmpedocles,as thoughhe was simplyreporting
covered.But it is also clearthatAristotle
had designson hispredecessors,thathe wishedto use themto illustrate
hisowndoctrine
offour
causes,or thathe honestlybelievedhis doctrinewas implicitin the
pre-Socratic
philosophies
ofnature.The materialcausewas exemplifiedin Thales'Water,Anaximander's
seedsand Anaximenes'
Air,the
formalcause by the Eleatics' Beingand Pythagorean
Number,the
efficient
cause by the motionsof Democriteanatoms,and the final
cause by Anaxagoras'Mind.Then the criticalhistorians'
problemis
typically
illustrated
by theeffort
to discoverto whatextentAristotle
was imputingto his predecessors
his own ideas or reallymaking
articulateand developing
further
theintrinsic
structure
of thewhole
truthimplicitin his predecessors'
ideas.The tendency
to finda continuitybetweenour ownideas and thoseof past thinkers
is botha
necessary
methodological
conceptand yet also a possiblepitfall.We
mustassumethatthemindsof past generations
werenot absolutely
different
fromourown,or else all communication
and understanding
betweenourselvesand ourpredecessors
are impossible.
Solipsismand
mysticism
are notpossiblemethodsforthehistorian
ofideas.
On theotherhand,we mustalwaysfacetheproblemof avoiding
the errorof substituting
our own attitudesand beliefsforthoseof
thepast,evenwhenor especiallywhenwe admireand emulatethem.
Love can be blindin intellectual
matters.The appeal of historical
novelsraisesthe problemof the relationof literaryformand historicaltruth.Again,in Aristotle,this problemwas posed by his
dictumthatpoetryis moreuniversalthanhistory.
Whyare literature
and theartsless continuous
in theirhistorical
thanthesciencesand ourforms
development
oflaw and government?
Perhapstheanswerliesin thepredominance
of theindividualqualitiesofuniquehistorical
eventsor experiences
in worksof
symbolized
but
are
there historical
art;
fashionsand schoolsof art as thereare
historical
tendencies
and philosophies
ofscience.
The continuity
and uniquenessofthemusicof Bach,Haydn,and
Mozartare as discernible
to thetrainedear as thelogicalsimilarities
and differences
of Descartes',Spinoza's,and Leibniz'sphilosophies
or
ofLocke's,Berkeley's,
and Hume's.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

536

PHILIP

P. WIENER

The discoveriesin the historyof scienceof once unobservableentitieslike microbes,electricalcharges,Neptune,or Mendeleyev'spredicted elements(gallium and germanium)are undeniablywonderful
evidence of the powers of the mind and its cumulativegrowth,attractingmorepeople everyyear to the sciences.Derek Price has calculated that the rate of growthof the scientific
populationis so much
greaterthan that of the world's population, that extrapolationof
these growth-curves
would yieldthe startlingresultof morescientists
in the worldthan people aftera certaintime! The causes forthe acceleratedtempoof scientificprogressneed investigation,and the historyof ideas can heremake use of statisticaland othersuch methods
of sociological and historicalinquiry without sacrificingits fundamental insightsinto the humanisticaspects of scientificinterestand
developments;I mean the aesthetic,speculative,and moral aspects
of scienceand the historicalrelationsof scienceto literatureand the
arts,religion,education,and politics.
As wonderfulas the scientificexplorationof the atom and of
galaxies,moreremotefromus in space and timethan our imagination
can picture,is the explorationof the minutefacts of the historyof
the mind and the reconstruction
of its aspirations,motivations,failures, and achievements.The recaptureof the vision of the world as
seen by minds long gone is the marvellousfeat of the historianof
ideas. What the EmperorConstantineprobablythoughtand feltlike,
as he surveyedthe site of the futurecity he wished to build as the
Rome of the Eastern Empire, Gibbon has depicted so convincingly
that we feelin readingGibbon as if we weretransportedto the IVth
centuryand relivingthe Emperor'sfeelingsand thoughts.The unique
irrecoverableindividualevent,particularfeelings,and peculiarassociations of ideas that surgedthroughthe Emperor'smind we cannot
know,but theiruniversalfeatureswe can know,and if we have the
magical literarygiftsof a Gibbon,we can almostreenactthe experiThe history
ence,alwaysvicariously,as in any dramaticperformance.
of ideas can and shouldbe dramaticand its methodof presentingthe
findingscan look to the drama fora model: unityof plot or structure
in an idea, its transformations
under the stress and strain of conwhen the idea conflictingcircumstances,and its happy fulfillment
tributesto futureprogressor its tragicdeath when the idea fails to
meet the intellectualneeds of a changingworld,and passes into oblivion,perhapsdeservedly,shouldwe not pointout?
We don't know whetherGalileo mutteredunderhis breath "Eppur se muove" but we do know that those are exactlythe wordshe
could and should have utteredand must have feltlike uttering,and
some day theremay be absolutedocumentaryproofof it, thoughthat

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

537

of the
seems unlikelyat present.Also Ernst Mach's reconstruction
sortof experimentGalileo mighthave done in arrivingat his law of
but so convincingis it, that the hisinertiais a Gedankexperiment,
torianof otherthan scientificideas can well profitmethodologically
fromMach's example. Galileo himselfused a thoughtexperimentin
refutingAristotle'slaw of fallingbodies. I recall Galileo's argument
because my pointis that the methodof the thoughtexperimentis indispensable for the historianof ideas. By asking whetherNewton
could have discovered the law of universal gravitation without
Kepler's and Galileo's laws, we learn how scientificthought historicallydepends on a cumulative continuityof mental effortand
criticismthroughthe ages. The story of the apple is not merely
legendarybut misleadingwhen it gives people the idea that science
occurs to an emptymind by a sudden intuitionunrelatedto traditional thoughtson the same problem.
The problemof "influences"in the historyof ideas is anotherperpetual problem."Actionat a distance"seems to be admissiblein the
fieldof intellectualinfluences.The ideas of Plato still have theirinfluenceon studentsseparated by more than two millenia fromhis
writings.Direct contactwitheven the writingsof a thinkeris not always necessaryforit is possible to findthat thereare otherpersons
whosemindsand talk or writingsforma chain of influencetraceable,
however,by somehistorianor recorderof the ideas. Mersenne"was in
fact an influentialexponentof mechanism"4 because he served as
"the letter-box"("la poste") of scientificand philosophicXVIIthcenturyEurope. On the negative side, not all pupils are disciples:
Aristotlewas not merely a pupil of Plato. The great individual
thinkersnot onlyshowgreatcapacityforlearningfromtheirteachers
and predecessors,but also the originalpower to supersedethem by
criticaldissatisfactionwith theirideas. What are the climactericconditionsmost favorableto new ideas, and in what sense is a mind influencedby "the climate of opinion"? More precise definitionsand
of causal conditionsare needed. It will not do to say "X
specification
Y
influenced because what is true of X is true of Y, and X preceded
Y." The fallacyof post hoc, ergopropterhoc and the possibilitythat
X and Y have a commonsourcein Z or derivefroma commontradition must not be forgotten.5
4 C. C. Gillispie,The Edge of Objectivity,
an Essay in theHistoryof Scientific
Ideas (Princeton,
1960),111.
5 R. Mondolfo,
"Nota sobrelos 'Antecedentes'
en la Historiade la Filosofia,"
22 (1959), 5-9; Mondolfoproperlysuggeststhat influences
Philosophia,
depend
on theintellectual
tradition
negatively
againstwhichan idea reacts.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

538

PHILIP

P. WIENER

II
No discussionof problemsand methodscan mean much apart
fromthe subject-matter,
interests,and generalbasic assumptions
of the investigators.
A distinctive
featureof our subject-matter
is
its breadthwithrespectto the regionaland temporalspan of ideas
whichpermeateculturesas wellas disciplines.
We notethelocal and
epochaltingegivento ideas but onlyto compareor contrastsuch
withotherappearancesof the
regionaland temporalcharacteristics
historical
conditions.
ideasunderdifferent
Or we notehowan idea in
a poem like Pope's Essay on Man expressedan old philosophical
problem,
theidea ofthegreatchainofbeing.We leaveto thespecialist thedetailsofa singlethinker's
butwe are interested
biography
in
theinfluence
ofthatthinker's
ideas on his and latergenerations.
For thesake of discussion
we presentverybriefly
someproblems
of methodin each of the following
typesof intellectual
historiograand
biographical
phy:-(1)
autobiographical;
(2) sociological;(3)
philological;(4) metaphysicaland theological;(5) scientific.
Of
course,theyoverlapconsiderably.
(1) The biographical
and autobiographical
method,e.g. Plato's
Socraticdialogues,Plutarch'sLives, Augustine'sConfessions,
Descartes'DiscourseonMethod,is especiallyvaluableforthehistorian
of
ideaswhenaccompanied
the
by
impersonal
analysesofabstractideas
and contemporary
philosophical
writings.
Thoughwe learnmuchof
theindividualSocratesand his ideas in the Apology,Crito,Phaedo,
and the laterdialogues,especiallywhenXenophon'saccountagrees
withPlato's, Socratesmuststill be distinguished
fromPlato's admiring
portrayal.
Plato'ssilenceaboutDemocritus
speakswellforthe
laughingphilosopher;what is not said by X of a contemporary
thinker
Y knownto X has itshistorical
significance
and suggests
conflictsofideasat thebasisof conflicts
of strongpersonalities.
Proclus'
Introduction
to Euclid'sElementsgivesus ourknowledge
ofPythagoreanideaswhichmadegeometry
an essentialpartoftheliberaleducationof Westernman. Diogenes'Lives of the Philosophers
is notoriously
gossipyandunreliable.
SaintAugustine's
Confessions
setthe
model forPascal and Rousseau and the wholetraditionof soulsearchinganalysesin Christianethics.Descartes'Discours de la
Methodeand Spinoza'sDe emendatione
intellectucontainautobiographical
pageswhichthrowan essentiallighton theideas of their
times.The Selbst-Darstellung
seriesof Germanphilosophers
and the
SchilppLibraryofLivingPhilosophers
havemadeexcellent
use ofthe
methodofstarting
withan intellectual
autobiography,
and thenhavingthewriter
facehiscontemporary
critics.By contrast,
Hegel'sHistoryof Philosophyscarcelymentionsindividualphilosophers:
they
are merelychipsofhisAbsolute,and expressits "cunning."

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

539

Certainproblems
methodarisefromthe
posedbythebiographical
factthatPeter'sopinionsofPaul veryoftentellus moreaboutPeter
than about Paul. Leibniz'smonadology
woulddeducethis psychological fact fromhis metaphysicaldoctrineof internalrelations.
BertrandRussell'sworkson Leibnizand on theHistoryof Western
Philosophytell us moreabout Russellthan about Leibnizand the
But thenwe have a methodsuggested
of philosophy.
hereof
history
abouta person'sideas,namely,findoutwhathisopinionsare
learning
ofotherpersons'ideas!
The methodofcomparative
wasinstituted
biography
byPlutarch's
parallelLivesand corresponding
intothecomparative
merits
insights
ofGreekandRomancivilizations.
Yet evenhereas thediscipleofthe
neoplatonist
Plutarchin hisaccountofArchimedes
Ammonius,
seems
to be exhibiting
his neoplatoniccommitment
to the superiority
of
in underscoring
the allegedcontemptof
theoryto sense-experience
the greatSyracusanmathematician
for experiment.
The question
hereis whether
Plutarchis notsimplystereotyping
Archimedes'
own
utterances
intendedforaristocratic
ears about the menialityof experiments.The fact is that Archimedes
was the greatestapplied
mathematician
and experimental
physicistof antiquity,so that he
was eitherfarahead of his speculativeaudienceor unawarehimself
of his owntruepowers.To whatextenta greatmindknowsor does
not knowits ownpowersis a nice questionforpsychology.
In any
case,the intellectual
historian
is facedwiththe problemof comparing the statements
of a thinkerabouthimselfand his methodswith
hisactualattainments
andmethods.
The historian
ofthemindis in a
betterposition,fromthe standpoint
of his abilityto tracean individual'sinfluence
on laterages,to judgethe attainments
of an individualthantheindividual's
ownautobiographical
claims.Ipse dixit
is notan indubitable
criterion
oftruthin intellectual
autobiography.
A case in pointis Newton'smethodand his professed
indebtedness
to
histeacherHenryMoreandtheideasoftheCambridge
neo-Platonists.
We havean interesting
methodological
problemhere,viz. to whatextenteven greatthinkers
fail to understand
theirown methodsand
sources,but in so failingrevealsomething
of theZeitgeistas wellas
of themselves.Croce'sand Collingwood's
curiousmonadisticview
thattheultimateaimofall historiography
is increasedself-awareness
on thepartofthehistorian,
also restson thequestionable
assumption
thatthehistorian's
subject-matter
mustultimately
be autobiographical. A moreprudentview wouldregardthe historian'sstatements
aboutthepast or abouthimselfas hypotheses
requiring
documentationto testintrospective
methodsofverification.
Anotherproblematic
featureof the biographical
methodis the
vexatiousquestionof judgingthe evidentialweightof unpublished

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

540

PHILIP

P. WIENER

The dilemmahereariseswhenthe hispapersand correspondence.


torianis also askedto edita selectionof suchMSS. He mustdeterorwere
ofpublication
minewhichoftheseMSS areorarenotworthy
The editorialproblemis further
notintendedforpublication.
aggravated whenthe authorhas leftseveraldrafts,e.g. in the case of
CharlesS. Peirce'sCollectedPapers.Also,biographers
oftenfindmore
abouta man'slifejustpriorto thetimehe achievesrecinformation
of
ognition;butthentheformative
years,theheart-rending
struggles
hisyouth,arenotso trulyknownoraregladlyforgotten.
the heartof the
Finally,a centralproblemof method-touching
themeof individualism-isthe relativesignifipresentconference
or autobiographies
of so-called
canceof the intellectual
biographies
The verydistinction
of "minor"and
"minor"and "major"thinkers.
butevenso is worthhistorical
"major"mayreflect
popularprejudice,
ofan unknown
notice.The intellectual
orneglected
biographer
minor
in
claim
find
his
to
figuremay properly
subjecta revealingkey to
ofthecontemporary
theopinionsof a largercross-section
population
ofthesameera.Whichis themore
thanthemoreadvancedthinkers
ofideas,theminorormajorfigure?
forthehistorian
6 The
significant
viewon the groundthatthe
Hegeliantakesthe latter"great-man"
metaphysical
"spiritof the times"is best expressedby the "worldhistorical"
greatman.Whenand whytheworking-class
manbecame
a fitsubjectforliterature,
or philosophy
is a questionthat
history,
callsfora sociological
analysis.
(2) The sociologyofknowledge
is a secondapproach,broughtto
the foreby Comteand Hegel and centralto Marx's class-analysis,
of the social philosophies
partlyin continuation
of Locke,Montesquieu,Voltaire,and theotherFrenchencyclopedists.
The problemof
Marxistsand Mannheim's
schoolofsociological
historians
ofideology
oftheidea oftruth.Thereare logicalconis thatoftheuniversality
fusionsherewhichMorrisR. Cohen and Karl Popperhave penetratingly
exposedin theircritiquesof sociologism
and psychologism.
ofideas is notcalleduponto judgewhether
Of course,thehistorian
the ideas he is tracingare trueor simplybeliefsheld to be true.
However,whenwe knowthattheideas are false,thenthehistorian
has to inquirewhether
it was knownat the timethatthe ideas believedwerefalse.MindslikeAristotle
and and Ptolemywhobelieved
the earthhad a central,stationary
place in the universecannotbe
described
as beingas ignorant
or as prejudicedas thosewhoopposed
and Galileo.
Copernicus
6 On the value-judgments
impliedin theterms"minor"and "major,"cf.M.

R.
Cohen,The MeaningofHumanHistory(La Salle,Ill., 1950),Ch. 7. Minorfigures
reflectpopularideas of theirtime,whereasthe majorones represent
new pathmovements
ofthought.
breaking

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

541

The logicalimpasseof the sociologyof knowledge


is the endless
regressofreferring
all ideasto thegrouppresuppositions
ofthepersonswhoholdtheideas,including
the groupof sociological
analysts
of thesepersons,the groupof criticsof thissecondgroup,etc.,ad
infinitum.

Thereare socialaspectsof ideas and criteriaforappraising


ideas
of tremendous
weightin the historyof thoughtforexplainingthe
domination
ofsomeideas,thelesspersistent
tenureofothers,
and the
nearextinction
ofsomespeciesofideaslikethoseofracialsuperiority.
I say "nearextinction"
sincefalseideas persistlongaftertheyhave
beendisproved
or scholars.Such "culturallags" are imby scientists
portantforthehistorian
ofsocialthoughtand institutions.
Also,social considerations
alone explainwhythe writtenlanguagediffers
fromthe oral and whythe politeoral speechdiffers
fromthe slang
or argotofthestreet.That class-affiliations
affect
structure
linguistic
is a stilldefensible
MarxianviewdespiteStalin'sdictatorialdecree
Marr.
againstProfessor
However,we mustdrawthelineagainstthesociological
approach
whenit producessuchcontradictory
monstrosities
as "Bourgeoisvs.
Soviet"science.That thebestlanguageofall scienceis mathematical,
and its bestmethodis experimental
is the greatlogicallessonto be
learntfromtheinternalhistory
ofscientific
ideas,evenaftervarious
external
socialcontexts
havebeenstudied.The difference
betweenthe
internaland externalhistory
ofscienceraisestheproblemofthehistoricalrelationships
of thecommunity
of savantsto thelargercommunityoftheworld.Similarproblems
appearforthehistory
ofother
disciplines.
Philosophical
historians
havespokenofthematerialand economic
forcesthatmovemenand explainall socialhistory.
But theveryinsistenceofsuchhistorians
on thepoliticalimportance
of all menbecomingconsciousof thisphilosophy
of history,
so that to join the
Party was almosta logicallyinevitablecorollary,
showsthat implicitlyanotherforce,"thebondof commonideas,"7 is implicitly
invoked.Now,theproblemforthehistorian
ofideasis to discoversuch
common
intellectual
bondsunderneath
thecomplexeventsofhistory,
as Trevor-Roper
doeswhenhe findsin FrancisBacon'sphilosophy,
as
espousedand presentedby threeforeignvisitorsto England (the
Poles SamuelHartliband JohnDuryand theBohemianComenius),
thekeyto thenewphilosophy
oftheEnglishnationthatemerged
in
thedecade1620-1630as theNewDeal philosophy
in Americaemerged
out ofthedepression
of 1929.How absurdforthenominalist
to deny
the commonmorbideffects
of the economicand socialtragedieswe
"Three Foreigners
7H. R. Trevor-Roper
and the Philosophyof the English
Revolution,"[SamuelHartlib,JohnDury,Jan A. Komensky(Comenius)],Encounter(Feb. 1960),9.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

542

PHILIP

P. WIENER

saw withso muchsorrowin 1930thatthepartlypsychopathological


word"depression"
was mostappropriately
adoptedto designatethe
feltidea thatsomething
mustbe doneto avoid
era.8The commonly
ofsuchtragiccollapseofman'ssocialintelligence
repetitions
surelywas
idea
of
the
decade
and
the
idea for
a universally
pervasive
1930-40,
whichmillionshave died,viz. thatthefascistand Nazi retreatfrom
reasonwas not the solution-bothof theseideas surelycannotbe
as essentialintellectual
elements
easilydismissedfromconsideration
of the terrible
eventsof World
to an understanding
thatcontribute
whichhas stillnotsubsided.
WarII and thecrisisofliberalism
The role of utopiasin the historyof politicalideas needsmore
createdby themindof manin sostudy,forutopiasare hypotheses
cial desperation
and in aspirationfora bettersociety.Logically,an
whatis missing,shouldrevealwhatwas
ideal utopia,by supplying
neededat thetimewhentheUtopiawas conceived.
LeonardKriegerin hisarticleon "HistoryandLaw in theXVIIth
Century:Pufendorf,"
9 showshow XVIIth-century
historiography
whentheprevailing
grewout ofpoliticaland legalinterests
philosowasrationalistic
phyofhistory
(in theCartesiansense),so thatwhile
FrancisBacon,Hobbes,Spinoza,and Leibnizreferto history,
they
tendto subordinate
it to universal
ofthemind,mechanical
principles
naturallaw,or theodicy,
forces,
respectively.
It is important
to note
thatthenaturalism
oftheXIXth andearlyXXthcenturies
wouldnot
subordinate
thehistorical
element,
but elevatedit intoan evolutionIf the individualwas reducedto a meremodeor
isticphilosophy.
monadin theXVIIth century
dynamics
ofeternalnature,he was also
in thewavesofXIXth century
engulfed
evolutionism.10
I agreewith
Mr. Simonthat"itis morefruitful
to acknowledge
and to analyzethe
evenof eminentthinkers
inconsistencies
thanto tryto torture
them
intoconsistency"
(loc. cit.,299,f.n.36).
(3) A thirdmethodis the philologicalone of tracingideas and
theirtransmutations
throughkey-words
or expressionsand their
changein time.The meanings
of "physis,""nomos,""logos,""arete,"
"techne,""episteme,"
etc.are keysto theHelleniclegacyto philosophy; that "virtue"meant"manliness"in Rome,and "cunning"in
Machiavellisuggests
diverseidealsofindividuality.
How important
it
8 Historians
of ideas mustdistinguish
namestheygiveto past periods,e.g. the

MiddleAgesor Red Decade, fromthe namesconsciously


used duringthe period,
e.g. Renaissance,
Enlightenment,
Depression.
9J.H.I.,XXI, 2 (April1960), 198f.
10"The development
of societyas well as the development
of man and the
development
of lifegenerally,
may be describedas a tendency
to individuate-to
becomea thing(acquirea personality)."
H. Spencer,Social Studies,408, quoted
by WalterM. Simonin his "HerbertSpencerand the 'Social Organism,"'J.H.I.
(April1960),296.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

543

is forstudentsof Plato to learnthatJowett'stranslation


of Plato's
dialoguesis influenced
the
by
ofGermanXIXth-century
terminology
so that "AbsoluteBeauty"was Jowinspiredidealisticmetaphysics,
ett's forcedreadingof Plato's kalos autos,simply"beautyitself."
Plato gave the terms"Sophist"and "sensuous"a bad odor,and
"psyche"and "ideas"an honorific
auraoftranscendence.
As a precursor
ofthe"highercriticism"
oftheBible Spinozaconsciouslyadvocatedthephilological
methodof determining
themeaningoftermsin Scripture
in which
thevariouscontexts
by comparing
the same Hebrewwordis used. By callingMoses' storyof his Mt.
Sinaiinterview
"a piousfable,"Spinozashowedhis understanding
of
historical
methodand art.
A wordis equivalentto a personality,
CharlesS. Peirce once
pointedout,"1fora wordlike a personexperiences
changes,thatis,
bothareinfluenced
bytheexternal
culturalenvironment
ofotherpersons; wordsare judgedgoodor bad as personsare according
to conventions;the meaningof a wordis distinguished
fromthe spoken
soundsor written
marksthoughinseparablefromthem,as the personalityis distinguishable
but inseparablefromthe body of the
person.
Whyare etymologies
unreliable
guidesto meanings
ofwords?Because wordslikeall humanbeingschangetheirassociations
in time.
Habitsofspeechchange,so thatwe do notknowtoo exactlyhowthe
wordsof Shakespeare's
playswerepronounced
in his day or exactly
whatovertones
thesewordselicited.Still we can makeastoundingly
goodguessesas to the ideas expressed.
Our tape-recording
machines
todaywillfacilitatethe problemforfuturehistorians
of our spoken
languagetoday.Here again,the uniquefeaturesof our culturewill
yieldthe rightof way to the universaltransmissible
features.It is
altogether
likelythatthe spokenlanguagein its richslangand racy
obscenities
willexpressideaswhichno respectable
writerwilldareto
putintowriting,
butthephilological
approachto thehistory
ofideas
canscarcely
neglecttheunwritten
language.Another
limitation
ofthe
philological
methodis thefactthatmanyideas are expressed
in nonverbalsigns,especiallyin theartsofarchitecture,
sculpture,
painting,
the dance,dress,etc. Iconologynecessarily
predominates
in cultures
whereilliteracy
was theruleforthemajorityof people.The cinema
and television
oftodayarematerialsforfutureiconologic
analysisof
ourculture.
Justas thereare concrete
wordsand abstractwords,so thereappearto be mindsofthesametwosortsofemphasis,
orperhapsmood.
However,Duhem was hardlyaccuratein distinguishing
along nationallinestheampleconcrete
mindfromthemorenarrow,
abstract
11CollectedPapers of CharlesSandersPeirce,vol. 7, ed. A.
W. Burks (Cambridge,Mass., 1958),paragr.584ff.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

544

PHILIP

P.

WIENER

analyticalmind,1'esprit
de geometre
froml'espritde finesse.12
Duhem
erredby introducing
extra-scientific
nationalisticand nominalistic
conceptsto explaindifferences
of theoriesand stylesof thoughtinternalto thehistory
of a scienceor of literature.
The philological
of criticism.
methodcan serveas an instrument
As an example,an articlein Isis (Dec. 1959),p. 459f.,"On the PresumedDarwinism
ofAlberuniEightHundredYearsBeforeDarwin"
by Jan Z. Wilczynski
(Beirut,LebaneseState University)properly
criticizes
whatI taketo be a typicalSovietnationalistic
articleby a
Turkestan
authorT. I. Rainowon "The GreatScholarsofUzbekistan
13
(IXth to XIth centuries)."
Rainow'spaperclaimedto see in Alberunia precursor
ofDarwin:
Thus,in modernlanguagewe couldexpressthisthought
of Alberunias
follows:Natureperforms
naturalselectionof the most adequate,welladaptedbeingsthroughthe extermination
of others,and in this case, it
proceedsin the same way as farmersand gardeners.
We see, therefore,
thatDarwin'sgreatidea of naturalselectionthrough
the struggle
forlife
and survivalof thefittest
was alreadyreachedby Alberuniapproximately
800 yearsbeforeDarwin.It is truethat he seizedit in the mostgeneral
outlinesonly,butcuriously
enough,eventheverymeaningand theway in
whichhe came to it werethe same as Darwin's.The latter,as we know,
discoverednaturalselectionby observationof the methodsof artificial
as appliedby animalbreeders.
selection,

Now Rainowused an Englishtranslation


(London,1887) of Alberuni'sArabicworkon India: "An accountof thereligion,
philosophy,literature,
geography,
chronology,
astronomy,
customs,
lawsand
astrologyof India about A.D. 1030."Wilczynski
correctly
observes
that"in Alberuni's
India, in itselfan outstanding
work,someviews
resembling
the basic principles
of Darwin'sfuturedoctrineare undeniablyto be found.They are,however,
vague and accidental;at
anyratetheydo notforma coherent
theory,
nordidAlberuni
himself
realizeor pretendto ascribeto themany possiblesignificance
as far
as theirbiologicalmeaningmightbe concerned"(Isis, loc. cit.,p.

466).

My point is that greateremphasiscould have been put by


Rainow'scriticon thephilological
factthatthetranslator
usedDarwinianterms;in 1887theymeantmuchmorethanin 1030!
It is beyondmy competence
to discussthe complexrelationsof
12 Cf. P. Duhem,La Theoriephysique(Paris, 1906) and the
morepertinent
references
to Rankine's"abstractive"
vs. "hypothetical"
methodsin the constructionof scientific
ideas.Also,cf.C. P. Snow,The Search(New York,19341,19582),
258-260.
13 WielikijeUczenyjeUzbecistana(IX-XI bb), Tashkent:EditionOusphan,
1943,p. 62f.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

545

and culturalhistory.14
philologyto literarycriticism
However,I do
knowthattheeditorsof theJournalof the Historyof Ideas do not
of literaryor artisticworksincomfindthe aestheticappreciation
patiblewiththehistorical
analysisofideasembodiedin theseworks.
of ideas aimsto reduce
It is a mistaketo believethatthe historian
and artto mereanthropological
worksofliterature
documents
or obI shouldagreewithJohnDewey (Artas
jectsofhistorical
curiosity.
of thehistorical
Experience) thatknowledge
contextof a literary
or
artisticworkmaywellenhanceone'sappreciation
of it. Someliteraturesand arts becomeextinctand can be enjoyedonly through
andhistorical
philological
MSS.
research,
e.g.Old Englishilluminated
(4) By the metaphysicaland theologicalapproachto thehistory
ofideasI meanthemethodoffitting
all ideasand history
intoan allegedlyeternalframework
or philosophy
ofhistory
whichdetermines
not onlythe structure
but also the occasionsforthe appearanceof
ideasand theircareers.So Plato in Timaeus regarded
thecreationof
the cosmosas predetermined
moral
causesas muchas the cycliby
cal successionof formsof government
are. Aristotle'steleological
metaphysics
ofhistory
predetermined
thegovernance
ofphysicaland
biologicalchangesby purposiveor finalcauses,and so politicalconstitutions
also wouldnecessarily
reflectthe almostbiologically
predetermined
character
ofpeople.The Hebrew-Christian
of
philosophy
historycontinued
to emphasizethe moralfactorat firstin dramatic
mythology
and thenin metaphysical
rationalizations
likeAugustine's
theodicy,
revivedby Bossuet'sDiscours universellein the XVIIth
WhenVoltairewishedto attackthe scholasticmetaphysics
century.
of history,
he attackedthe Hebrewsas the originalsponsorsof the
mythicalidea of heavenand hell,of the Gardenof Eden, of man's
disobedience
and necessary
fall,oftheMessianiccomingand redemption of man. The influenceof this theodicicmethodof historical
thinking
appearsin Butterfield's
viewthatsincewe areall sinnerswe
shouldabstainfrompassingmoraljudgmenton historicalfigures,
evenwhendealingwithHitler.But theproblemstillremainswhether
it is feasibleor desirableforhistorians
to remainor tryto be morally
aloofin theirprofessional
workas historians.
In any case,historians
of thoughthave alwaysbeenmoralpartisansof someideas and condemnedotherideason variously
professed
grounds:theloveof truth
and beauty,of countryand God, of one's own people or culture
againstbarbarians
and Gentiles,
offreedom
versustyranny,
ofdemocraticleadersversusdictators,
etc.It is seriously
questionable
whether
14 Cf. Erich Auerbach,Mimesis: the Representation
of Realityin Western
Literature(Princeton,1953) and otherwritings
reviewedby CharlesF. Breslin
in "Philosophy
or Philology:Auerbachand Aesthetic
Historicism,"
J.H.I.,XXII,
3 (July-Sept.1961),369-81.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

546

PHILIP

P. WIENER

any historyof any idea would everbe writtenor read if therewereno


strongmoral passions aroused in the historianor the reader by the
cold recitalof that idea's effectson human affairs.Of course,we must
agree that objective truthin historyas well as in any honest search
fortruthrequiresour not permittingour moral feelingsto determine
the factsor intrudeinto the orderof the intellectualeventsrecounted.
But, as I understandButterfield,
he does not wish to exclude from
a vivid accountof the moralpassionsand highfeelings
historiography
or dramatictensionsthat the documentaryevidenceobjectivelyindicates as an essentialpart of the human eventsreported.Wheremankind universallycondemnsunnecessaryinflictionof pain and wholesale slaughter as wanton immorality,do not such events become
objectivelysubject-matterforhistoricaldescriptionin moral terms?
Should we not,forexample,describeas morallygreatsome historical
individuals like Socrates, the Buddha, Confucius,Lao-Tze, Moses,
Christ,Lincoln,Ghandi,and as morallybad historicalindividualslike
those who conspiredagainst Socrates, the Neros and Caligulas, the
Hitlers,or are we to abstain fromall such moral judgment?Does not
the biographerhave to assume some moral value forsome of his subject's actions as his legacy to posterity,as even the autobiographer
does forhis own life?
(5) The "scientific"approach.-The Polish historianof philosophy
W. Tatarkiewiczhas made a usefuldistinctionforthe so-called "humanisticscientist":
We shouldkeep in mindthatthe humanistic
sciencesare not sciences
aboutpsychicphenomena
as againstthe naturalscienceswhichdeal with
physicalphenomena.
The historyof art,ethnography,
linguistics,
and other
typicallyhumanistic
sciencesdo notdeal withpsychicalbutwithpsychophysicalphenomena.
The humanistic
sciencesare thosethat inquireinto
the creationsof man-as againstthe naturalsciencesthat inquireinto
creationsof nature;thisis thereal difference
betweenthem.15
In the historyof a physicalsciencelike astronomy,in additionto
the advances due to instruments,
studentsforgetthe historicalrole of
theories,so that Copernicuslike Aristarchusand Ptolemywere great
astronomerspreciselybecause they created a systematicview of the
heavens withouttelescopesor cameras.
Tatarkiewicz'sdistinctiondoes not call for a unique intuitiveor
super-empiricalmethod of "understanding"for the Geisteswissenschaften against the methodof the Naturwissenschaf
ten.
"Scientifichistoriography"
has various meaningswhichare often
confounded:(a) the searchfordiversephysicaland biologicalfactors
15'W. Tatarkiewicz,
"Nomological
and TypologicalSciences,"fromReportsof
the Polish Academyof Sciences,vol. 46 (1945), 28ff.;translatedby Dr. Max
Reiser,Journalof Philosophy(March 31, 1960), 239.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROBLEMS

AND METHODS

547

said to "determine"
thought-geography,
climate,Buckle's"aspectof
nature,"racialism,Malthusianism,
Social Darwinism,correlation
of
skeletalstructure
and waysof life,etc.; (b) the subsumption
of all
intellectual
and culturalchangesunder"patternofevents"or "laws"
ofhistory-Auguste
Comte'sthreestages,Hegel'sdialecticunfolding
of the Weltgeist
theVolksgeist
in thedeedsand thoughts
through
of
the "world-historical"
individualor "great-man,"Marxian classstruggle
theory,
HenryAdams"phase-rule"
appliedto history,
Spengler'sand Toynbee'sorganicistic
determinism,
etc.; (c) the searchfor
probablecausesand empiricalcorrelations
of culturally
concomitant
in thehistory
ofarts,languagesandliteratures,
developments
natural
and socialsciences,
and philosophies.
religions
The basicconceptor problemin all threeofthesediverseconceptionsofthescientific
wayto studythehistory
of ideas is thenature
ofcausation.'6
Can we notproceedto investigate
probablecausesforintellectual
developments
withoutcommitting
ourselvesto a philosophy
of "historicalinevitability"?
David Humewasableto writegoodhistory
and
assignpsychological
causesto England'spoliticallifewithoutabandoninghisscepticism
aboutthedemonstrability
of"necessary
connection"in causality.An interesting
linguisticfacthereis that Hume
usedeveryday
wordsto expresscausalrelations
in history.'7
Marxistsdo notconfine
themselves
to dialecticsor economicfactorswhentheyinterpret
historyforpoliticalpurposes,so thatthere
is the problemof the difference
betweenprofessedtheoriesof historicalcausationand thebeliefsimplicitin theMarxists'intellectual
activities.
Ourproblemis to be as empirical
as anynaturalscientist
and yet
do justiceto the organicinter-relatedness
of the variousaspectsof
culturalhistory.
It doesnotseemto me necessary
to resortto a transempiricalor privateintuitionist
methodsimplybecausewe are dealing with the humanmind and its complexhistoricalpatternsof
thought.
I concludetheseverybriefremarkson methodology
withsome
further
questionsfordiscussion
and research.
1. To whatextentmustthe internalhistoryof ideas in the Arts
and Sciencesbe studiedapartfromexternalcauses?
16Cf."Symposium
on Causation,"M. R. Cohenand F. J. E. Teggart,J.H.I.
(1942).
17 Humesays,forexample,
thatJuliusCaesar,afterinvadingGreatBritainin
55 B.C., "was constrained,
by the necessityof his affairsand the approachof
winter,
to withdraw
his forcesintoGaul." Historyof England,vol. I, ch. 1, p. 4.
Or,thebaronswhoopposedKingJohn(in 1215) easilysaw fromPope Innocent's
letters"thattheymustreckonon havingthe Pope, as wellas the king,fortheir
adversary."
Ibid.,p. 426.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

548

PHILIP

P. WIENER

2. Do greatperiodsof art and literature


generally
precedethese
of scienceand philosophy?
This suggestiveproblemwas posed by
CharlesS. Peirceas a rhetorical
questionand hypothesis.
3. To whatextentdoestheself-image
ofan individualor a whole
groupof individualswithina cultureenteras a causal factorin the
ofthatculture?
history
4. Is theconsistency
orlackofconsistency
in a thinker's
work,the
or immorality
morality
ofhis conduct,
thebeautyor lackofit in his
living,a partofhis thoughtand lifethatneedsto be includedin the
historian's
accountof theideas of thatindividualthinker?
5. Areall ideasdated,or mustsomeideasliketheidea ofGod,of
humannature,oftheopposition
of goodand evil,oftruthand error,
of immortality
and freedom,
and of themystery
18
of the individual
be regarded
as eternal?
6. Is thereany clear idea or criterionof progressin human
thought,
and if so, howspecifically
has thatidea manifested
itselfin
the variousarts and sciences?What relationdid such an idea of
progress
formankindhave on thedevelopment
and educationof the
individual?
7. Does theoriginality
or priority-claims
of an individualthinker
proceedfromhisinitialstatement
orfromthemannerin whichhe developstheideas?
8. Wheredoesan individual's
ownideasbeginorend,andhisdebt
to hispredecessors
orhisinfluence
on hissuccessors
beginandend?
9. As individualefforts
in the arts and sciencesbecomemore
dependent
on organizational
and statesupport,
howareoriginalcreativityand independent
research
affected?
10. Howwillthepopulation
explosion,
thenewAfro-Asiatic
states,
and theincreasing
life-spanaffectthe studyof thehistoryof ideas?
18 "In that new
way of livingand new formof society,whichis bornof the
heart,and whichis calledtheKingdomof Heaven,thereare no nations,thereare
onlyindividuals.
. . . Christianity,
the mystery
of the individualis precisely
what
must be put into the facts to make themmeaningful."
Boris Pasternak,Dr.
Zhivago,Pt. I, Ch. 4, sec. 12.

CityUniversity,
New York.

This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192.168.72.221 on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:58:29 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions