Sunday, July 16, 2017

History: a profound cultural difference

"The idea of history as a space where the salvation of individuals as members of a “nation,” a “race,” or a “faith” manifests is alien to Indian thought."
A clearer statement than the above cannot be found.  Of course, modern Indian thought seems to be  rapidly alienating itself from the roots of Indian culture.  Maybe modern Indian scholarship can rescue it.

The quote is from here.


As is the one below, with emphasis added:
The fact that everything transpires in history and can therefore be arranged temporally is a relatively banal insight. As a taxonomic principle it is no more compelling than those Foucault discovered on reading Borges in The Order of Things. So the distinguishing feature of the contemporary view is neither the insight into the historical nature of all existence (a discovery variously attributed to Vico, Herder, Humboldt, Hegel, and Ranke) nor the relating of events and discoveries to historical time. Rather, what is distinctive about historicism is the significance attached to history—a significance that, as Löwith rightly notes, originates with the Jewish and Christian experience of awaiting the Messiah. The Greek concept of time is cyclical: historical narratives exist but history itself insofar as it is chance and accidental cannot be the subject of an episteme (science). The proper object of knowledge is the eternal laws and customs that uphold the cosmos and ensure its orderly functioning. As Löwith notes, “In this intellectual climate, dominated by the rationality of the natural cosmos, there was no room for the universal significance of a unique, incomparable historical event.” Contrast this with the Jewish and Christian experience, for which “history was primarily a history of salvation and, as such, the proper concern of prophets, preachers, and philosophers.” There is now a tremendous interest in studying history. As the sphere where man’s salvation plays itself out, history acquires a new significance. To the extent that they regard themselves as Geschichtswissenschaften (historical sciences), the contemporary humanities also stand in this tradition. They have replaced philosophical understanding and ethical self-cultivation with reading the historical tea-leaves.