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What is history?

What is the relationship between specific events and the course of history as a whole? Are there ends that are being achieved and values that are being built up?

Is there progress in the direction of rationality, liberty, justice and human welfare? Is there pattern order, a plot, a theme, a development that we can discern?

The events of history are causally connected, but they must also have a unique quality so that they can be distinguished one from another.
Note: If there is no novelty or uniqueness in history, then history is pure recurrences. If history is pure recurrences, is there history at all?

0n the other hand, if each event is unique, how can historian make generalization about history?

What is the distinction of human history and human events from nature? which is pure recurrence? The question of unity of history: Whether there is one story of mans history to which we can give meaning? If there is meaning, how is it related to the meaning of life, and is that meaning to be located within history itself?

Is there pattern to history, and if so, does that pattern destroy the freedom of the historical agent man? Is there purpose in history, and does man envisage ends in history not found in nature?


A.The Cyclical View

This view understood the course of history in terms of the cycle of nature. The theory equated the historical cycle of birth and death was represented by the rise and fall of an empire.

Cyclical View

History is the realms of endless recurrences. Idea of transition of life is through TRANSMIGRATION or perpetual wheels of rebirths.

Cyclical View

Friedrich Nietzsche revived this idea in his Doctrine of Perpetual Recurrences.

Does History repeat itself?

B. The Biblical View

History is the working out of the divine purpose. It is Gods act of grace. St. Augustine sets the providential view of history as the revelation of Gods purpose.

The Biblical View

God is at work in human affairs and that society was moving in the direction of righteousness and peace. God express Himself through occasional and unique manifestations of His presence or He is constantly present in history and in nature.

C. History as the Expression of Reason or Spirit

Reason replaces faith as the central idea in the interpretation of history - Immanuel Kant- Idea of universal History

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Philosophy of History

History as the Expression of Reason or Spirit

Hegel general thesis is that reality is spirit manifesting itself in nature, in human history and in the actions of man. History is the development of spirit through successive stages. When the spirit reaches its stage of rational freedom, it is fully conscious.

History as the Expression of Reason or Spirit

World history belongs not to the realm of matter, but to the realm of spirit because the essence of matter is gravity, the essence of spirit is rational freedom. Reason is the essence not providential intervention.

History as the Expression of Reason or Spirit

Historical process is dialectic movement of thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis Affirmation to denial Or from claim to counter claim to a new integration

History as the Expression of Reason or Spirit

Benedetto Croce reinterpreted Hegels philosophy. He stated that there is no difference between history of the past and contemporary history because according to him, all history is contemporary history. Reality is history. History is the substance of reality therefore, a unifying subject of life and thought.

C. Economic Interpretation of History

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the communist manifesto and later Marx presented his work entitled Das Kapital. They view history from their analysis on the economic activities of human. Thus, dialectical materialism is conceived.

Economic Interpretation of History

Economic factors are the central determinants in mans historical development.

Economic Interpretation of History

History is interpreted as a record of class conflict in which the means of production, distribution and exchange exert a determining influence on the social process. Changes in the economic structure of society cause changes in class relation.

Economic Interpretation of History

Karl Marx proposed the Five Economic Stages 1. Primitive Communism; 2. Ancient Slave System of Production; 3. Military and Feudal; 4. Bourgeois or Capitalist System and, 5. Communism
Two phases of Communism Socialism- period of dictatorship of the proletariat (working class) Pure Communism- classless society


A. Spangler and the Decline of the West Oswald Spengler published his book entitled The Decline of the West which supports the idea that the western civilization is in the period of decline from its creative heights.


The declining stage is the period of decay, senility and skepticism There is no continuous and universal world culture. History is pluralistic, or made up of many cultures; there is, therefore, no single straight line of development Culture passes through four fairly distinct stages: Spring or childhood; summer or blooming youth; autumnal fading or maturity and winter or old age and death.

B. Schweitzer and the Need for Ethical World View.

Albert Sweitzer sees culture in an actual process of decay The suicide of civilization is in process and the parts that are left are no longer safe Until the middle of the 19th century, the material and moral forces of society develop side by side In the recent year, however, moral energy has declined, while the application of intellegence in the material sphere has moved ahead rapidly


Ethical foundation is the basis of civilization. We must recover its reverence for life

C. Whiteheads Philosophy of Civilization and History

For Alfred Whitehead, there are certain qualities or factors that are essential for any high civilization: truth; beauty; adventure; art and peace. According to him, a single monistic interpretation of history is inadequate and misleading The future is open and there is no inevitable progress or decline There will be either adventurous advance or a deadly lethargy of decadence.


Our society as a whole has put too much emphasis on material production and NOT ENOUGH upon moral, aesthetic and spiritual values.

D. On the Growth and Decline of Civilization

Arnold Toynbee believes that we need to study society as a whole not just states or nations since it is difficult to understand the parts separately We need to feel and comprehend life as a whole

The critical questions confronting western man are not military or economics or even intellectual but, essentially moral and religion.