I wanted to take a slightly different approach for the next week or two.
I am finding that I may be starting to post more than I should be and as a result the quality of my posts may be suffering.
So as a result I want to just post once or twice per week, but really try and focus on the quality and take a great deal of time researching, thinking and building a post.
This will mean that my posts will be a lot longer than usual. I hope that members find them interesting and useful in some way and they generate some discussion.
I would like to open my first thread in the philosophy area and address the question of history and the philosophy of history.
I thought it might be useful to define a number of terms and then pose two questions at the very end as a means of generating interest and discussion. These definitions are my own and are open to critique:
I cordon off and transform a piece of the past into an object of study, in order to build a structure, which is imposed on the past and is meant to conform to the past and speak the so called truth of the past.
The material which I use to build the historical object is the evidence at my disposal and the social, political and subjective constructs of my society in the present.
For want of a better method of speaking I understand that the validity of my claims regarding the object cannot be established a priori, though I may be able to prove the validity of my claims about the object through the quality and quantity of the evidence which gives rise to and supports my claims, along with consensus and the authority of expertise.
I understand that historical analysis, in this sense, is a political process as the reading of the evidence; the relationship I establish between the evidence and the malleable object; and the validity of my claims will be affected by my own “objectivity” and the perceptions and needs of my society and particularly those in my society who may wish to manipulate history to present a particular picture of the world which serves their interests.
The so called ontological status of the historical object is “determined” by its initial limited indeterminate “materiality or being for me” based on any preconceptions and constructs I may have regarding it and by any evidence I have previously studied. The object acquires “determinate being for me” through my traversing it and re traversing it with conventional codes, which evidence partakes of and which I bring to bear upon it and also through the political process. The object of history is built piece by piece as a result of an articulation and inscription of meaning upon its surface, effectively bringing it into intelligible or possible disclosed being.
I can make a claim regarding the validity of the object based on my interpretation or reading of the evidence at hand.
Valid evidence is construed as such because it is the product of a primary source. That is, it is a record made by an individual or group who were present at the time history was being made and did have a stake in making it and had acted; or else had been in a position to witness it being made, either from a distance or close up.
Secondary source material can have validity, but only if it is thoroughly based on a primary source material, and has undergone critique from an expert community and still lived to tell the tale.
I can also state that it “is valid evidence” because it has been agreed to “be valid evidence” by a community of experts or authorities with its own agendas and viewpoints. “Historical truth,” in this sense, may be established through force or propaganda and be enforced as such by mass consensus or the threat of violence.
Philosophy of History
I understand that a philosophy of history may be employed or assumed by me and that I have inherited or received this philosophy of history from my society.
I would also state that historical analysis or methodology and the determination of the object is conditioned by philosophical constructs, which are themselves imbedded in history and as such subject to the dilemma of historical interpretation.
Such philosophies would then contextualise or re – contextualise the claims regarding the object, my reading of the evidence and may infect the evidence itself. It also may be used to link the object together with other objects or to dismember or re - articulate the object or enlarge the object, according to a political message or teleology of reason etc.
For the sake of introducing the discussion further I would like to identify two fundamentally incompatible discourses underpinning the methodology of historical analysis and the construction of the historical object. Both of these have had an influence on me at one time or another. Here they are in a very brief form:
The Hegelian Model
The multiplicity, heterogeneity and variety of forces, motives and actors underpinning and acting within specific historical events are subsumed under a grand narrative of history.
As a result the perceptive and disinterested viewer may read the progressive and growing revelation of progress, freedom or reason from a divine or pure origin, through successive epochs to its final realisation now or in the future.
The Nietzschean/Foucauldian Model
Genealogy combats history viewed as a teleology extending in one long sweep from a privileged origin towards a day of liberation or complete clarification.
It meticulously unearths the most seemingly benign statements and combs the contents of the grubbiest archives and coaxes them to speak of their ignoble origins and how they have been appropriated by the politics of power and clash of physiology, instinct and rank. Genealogy studies the capture and recapture and the writing and rewriting of the body through the effects of emerging and crumbling historical/political discursive formations inscribed and re – inscribed and then re – inscribed once more.
I would briefly like to describe myself and then finally ask two question.
This philosophical solution may not seem original or special in any way, but it is an interesting place to work from for me anyway.
I define myself as a political/historical subject constituted as an effect of having my body inscribed and produced as predictable and productive, and as a result creating my own eye of power and a so called “self” articulated and built by culturally created codes and practices.
There is nothing inside the self as all articulation, construction and inscription occurs on the surface. The self is a box with nothing inside. The eye of power supervises construction and maintenance and is itself culturally constructed.
If there is such a “thing” as an “unconscious” then it is the desire for a body without control and which has not been produced and inscribed. It is the history which was lost and never was and never can be. It does not have a place, nor is it geographically located in the self. It lies in the margins as a more or less controlled force in the body, in the nerves and skin and muscle. It is the dark background behind the blazing eye of power. It is the primal desire, which lies in wait forever. It is the desire of a selfless body, of a purely instinctive body.
The ego is the so called primal scream tempered by the self and the produced body. It is the cry to move how I wish I could move if only I could remember. It is rage and sadness, which has been softened by “the real.”
At this stage I cannot determine for sure if there is anything beyond the text, but believe that I am in some way a “product” of Darwinian evolution. The viability of the Saussurian sign is assumed at this stage of the process.
My questions – how have you constructed your historical awareness and how has this awareness influenced your historical studies and influences? How have these considerations affected who you may be and what you do in the world?