As we study the eonic effect we discover the way in which our systems language
begins to impinge on the philosophy of history. More than that we see that the
history of philosophy (and science, as 'natural philosophy) is a key aspect of
the data of the eonic effect. Our subject is 'evolution', but it is also that of
Universal History. We have defined the relation of the two in terms of the Great
Transition between evolution and history.
In fact we have two 'universal histories', one seen in the eonic sequence, the
other the totality of cultural streams. The relation of the 'system' to 'free
activity' in the interface of 'self-consciousness' reconciles the contradiction
of causality and freedom. We thus define a formal 'evolution of freedom' in
this context. It is remarkable that this model constructed on its own terms
echoes a key aspect of the thought of Kant. Kant is famous for his Critiques,
but he also has a short essay on history, which has had a great, though often
unrecognized, influence. The reason is not far to seek. Any attempt to construct
a science of history will converge on the issues Kant makes central in his work,
especially his first Critique.
Thus the idea of
Universal History finds its classic realization in the
writings of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, in his essay Idea for a Universal
History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View:
concept one may hold, from a metaphysical point of view, concerning
the freedom of the will, certainly its appearances, which are human
actions, like every other natural event, are determined by universal
laws. However obscure their causes, history, which is concerned with
narrating these appearances, permits us to hope that if we attend to
the play of freedom of the human will in the large, we may be able to
discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and
chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of
the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though slow
evolution of its original endowment.
This is the first
paragraph in Kant's essay, and it is all we need from the essay, at least to
start. Kant's thinking is difficult, but his one passage contains the gist of
the whole system. Kant's essay is challenging us to answer a question: if
we attend to the play of freedom of the human will in the large, can we discern
a regular movement in it? Yes indeed we can! Kant's
Let us note
immediately, however, that we are going to outdo Kant by applying a
variant his thinking to a model of historical evolution, something latent
in his essay, but about which he was unable given the data that he had to speak
This innocent implied question
almost perfectly describes the pattern of the eonic effect, which answers
directly to Kant's challenge. Note how Kant's stance on 'freedom of the will in
the large' and the dynamics of some 'regular movement' almost automatically
summon up something like our distinction of 'system action' and 'free
action'. However, Kant also seems to attempt to answer his own question
with the concept of 'asocial sociability' and is often taken in the vein of some
classical liberal formulation of world history. His ambivalence springs from the
clear sense it doesn't quite work, and he projects his question into the future.
We can see all at once just how the problem can be solved.
Those familiar with
Kant's work will recognize the resemblance of this formulation to that of the
Third Antinomy in the Dialectic of his first Critique.
Kant’s Third Antinomy In
many ways the crux of the whole issue of theory and society is prefigured in
the classic ‘Dialectic
’ of Kant’s first Critique. “Causality according to laws of nature is
not the only kind of causality from which the phenomenon of the world can be
derived. It is necessary, in order to explain them, to assume a causality
through freedom.” Its antithesis is: “There is no freedom: everything in
the world takes place solely in accordance with laws of nature.”
The eonic model almost without trying sets up
just this kind of two aspect 'causality', the 'discrete freedom sequence' being
the piece de resistance in this regard. We will not use the term
'causality', however, since our model is an empirical map of semi-causal
association. It is good to be wary of the
usage of the term 'causality' here, in the intuitive statement of the antinomy.
But the point is clear enough from our eonic pattern. Where does freedom come?
We see that our discrete-continuous model, so-called, is easily matched to the
two kinds of effects, and the causal follows the second level of universal
history the freedom aspect the second.
Something truly amazing happens, although the
result is an empirical map, and not a 'deduction'. We see that structure of
history itself reflects the implied dynamism in the freedom antinomy.
There is something spectacular is the
discovery of the resemblance of Kant's thinking to our pattern, and it resolves
the problems that arise when we attempt unsuccessfully a science of history in
the manner of physics. We create a new kind of science which takes into account
the issue of freedom.
There is a lost more to say on this subject!
But this keynote passage from Kant's classic essay can gestate as food for
thought until it dawns on one the elegant and simple resolution of the
contradictions in ideas of 'historical laws', such as we have found already in
our consideration of historicism, as defined by Karl Popper. Popper's critique
is a direct descendant of Kant's. But whereas the rejection of Universal or
Big History is the considered the result of a post-metaphysical science, we can
see, on the contrary, that the way to a true science of history lies in the
classic core of the philosophy of history, with its rejection of the inverse
metaphysics of refusing the freedom factor.