Site for

History, Evolution, 
And Kant's Challenge


Home | Booknotes Archive | Darwiniana

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism,
And Theories of Evolution
2nd. Edition
By  John Landon


 Kant's Idea for a Universal History

Kant's What is Enlightenment?

Two Chapters from Körner's Kant

Körner on Teleological Explanation in Kant

The Illusions of Metaphysics: Kant's Dialectic





  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:

Whatever 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 Question

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 directly. 

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. Beautiful!  

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. 




Home | Booknotes Archive | Darwiniana

Last Modified 08/31/2005