What Is Progress for the Philosophy of History? Term Paper

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¶ … progress' for the Philosophy of History

Political Activities Change History

Essentially, progress for the Philosophy of History can be summed up in a single word: action. The nature of such action, of course, depends on the ones who are the authorities of those actions. However, upon reading excerpts from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels the German Ideology and the contents of Friedrich Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations, it becomes fairly clear that the nature of such action will inevitably be political in slant, if for no other reason than that politics and its influence is one of the primary sources of action recorded in history. If someone was not doing something, then there would be no historical record. For that action to be one worthy of being recorded for the sake of posterity, it must be one with many outlying manifestations. An examination of both of these texts demonstrates that political action is the ultimate expression of a palpable, tangible form of progress based upon the Philosophy of History.

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This notion is strongly alluded to within Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations. In fact, the notion that there is some genuine value of history that can actually be acted upon is one of the primary reasons that the author wrote the discourse of his Untimely Meditations. Actually, Nietzsche contrasts this most prudent application of history -- its political potential -- with that of those who merely like to peruse through the annals of time and man's interaction with it for their leisure, or for sport, in the following quotation.

Polybus…calls political history the proper preparation for governing a state and the best teacher who, by recalling to us the misfortune of others, instructs us in how we may steadfastly endure our own changes of fortune. He who has learned to recognize in this the meaning of history is vexed at the sight of inquisitive tourists & #8230;clambering about on the pyramids of the great eras of the past (Nietzsche 67-68)

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This quotation not only illustrates the author's disdain for those who misuse the true purpose of history ("clambering" through the "past"), but it also demonstrates that the true purpose of history and its study is to recall the actions ("misfortunes") of others to provide a form of governance ("instructs us") for contemporary events. Nietzsche expressly denotes that this process is the "meaning" of history, which is the basis for the entire Philosophy of History. Furthermore, it is little coincidence that in providing the definition of the intended use of historical accountings of events, that the example the author uses is that of "political" history. Political history certainly has a plethora of prudent applications that can be utilized, to great benefit, for the prudent modern scholar.

Interestingly enough, the downfalls of others and the "changes" of fortune that Nietzsche alluded to are some of the primary principles that motivated Marx and Engels to compose parts of the German Ideology . Although one may make the case that their study of historical processes and tendencies is from a standpoint that is as much economic as it is social, their political objectives certainly color virtually everything they have composed. In that respect passages from the German Ideology are no different. A close examination of the authors' work within this manuscript provides evidence that the true way means of progress for the Philosophy of History is through the engagement of action that is undoubtedly political in nature, as the following quotation certainly demonstrates.

In history up to the present… separate individuals have… become more and more enslaved under a power alien to them…a power which has become more and more enormous and, in the last instance, turns out to be the world market. but… by the overthrow of the existing state of society by the communist revolution…this power…will be dissolved.

The similarities between this quotation and the preceding one from Nietzsche are fairly astounding, and far from coincidental. What Nietzsche refers to as a political endeavor is given detail by Engel and Marx as being the communist revolution. Furthermore, the allusion to the errors demonstrated in history by Nietzsche is also reiterated in the present quotation, in which the authors make note of the historical presence of a power that has enslaved people. Such a power, quite obviously, would be what these authors perceive to be the ills of capitalism. The point of this quotation, of course, which comes from a section in this document headed as "History as a Continuous Process" is that history serves as a means of study to view actions that took place previously, which may be scrutinized to elucidate certain problems that are currently going on. and, of course, to further the Philosophy of History, to allow it to progress to change contemporary society and make for a different future history, it is required for individuals, groups, whomever, to take action.

The active component of the progress of history's philosophy is just as important, if not more so, than the political ends or political examples that an overview of history may provide. The conception of strength, typically exemplified by action (decisive, impactful) is a fairly current theme in many of Nietzsche's works. The study of such action, and of men who propagated it and the events that attested to it, is one of the most valuable aspects of history and its study. Nietzsche makes reference of this fact quite explicitly with the following quotation in which he references

…that hard relay-race of monumental history through which alone greatness goes on living! And yet and again there awaken some who, gaining strength through reflecting on past greatness, are inspired with the felling that the life of man is a glorious thing, and even that the fairest fruit of this bitter plant is the knowledge that in earlier times someone passed through this existence infused with pride and strength… (Nietzsche 68-69).

This quotation demonstrates other salient aspects of the Philosophy of History, largely that it is a chronicle of "greatness" -- that of course of men and the deeds they did. In this sense, then, history can be considered "living," since anytime anyone revisits those events or reexamines them they take place again, in all their glory (or infamy, as the case may be). Yet the role of strength in the application of history is what the author is truly alluding to in this passage, a strength that can be gained through "reflecting" on the greatness of past deeds, and that can be categorized as that which is imbued with both "pride" and "strength." Nietzsche viewed progress for the Philosophy of History as one based on action and typified by a strength of great men who were able to erect deeds worthy of being continually re-examined through the present and for all of time. The author refers to this conception as monumental history, and it is based upon a sense of taking action for a worthy cause -- the likes of which are typically based on political motives, objectives, and aims.

A copious amount of evidence also exists within the German Ideology that the true value, and therefore what may be considered progress, in the Philosophy of History revolves around a sense of motivation and action for contemporary scholars of this discipline. Marx and Engels frequently reviewed history as a source of the means to fuel support for their planning of a communist revolution. The political aspect of this objective has already been sufficiently demonstrated. However, even from a purely academic standpoint, these political theorists have demonstrated that this element of action is one of the true boons offered from the Philosophy of History.

In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven…we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process (Marx & Engels).

The importance that action plays in the preceding quotation is fairly apparent. Marx and Engels' examination of history, although definitely political, social and economic in nature, has been "set out" from men who are "active," and who take action and make things happen. That these men have been exemplified from the annals of history is strongly alluded to by the fact that these men are characterized as "real." These communist planners were not basing anything, from their conception of the previously existing ways of the world to their future plans of sedition, based on fantasy, or anything "imagined" or "conceived." Instead, by dealing with actual men who existed "in the flesh," the likes of which may be found from an analysis of history, these political ideologists have struck upon the idea that it is the "active" of those men that are the ones worth basing present actions upon.

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