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Last modified 05/26/2008



The rise of science has seen the extension of its methods and perspectives into all fields of human knowledge, and yet it is significant that no science of history has ever been successfully created. In part this is due to its complexity, and more fundamentally due to the failure of the assumptions of universal reductionism. The reasons for the confrontation with this limit are not mysterious and were clearly outlined by the philosopher Kant, whose system of critiques sounded a master chord in the discourse on causality and freedom. In a nutshell, the science of history must confront the reality and significance of the idea of freedom. But if we adopt the perspective of freedom can we create a science at all? This issue is the object of multiple insights by a host of students of history and theory, among them Isaiah Berlin with his critique of the idea of historical inevitability, and Karl Popper with his attack on what he called 'historicism', a term with a long history, but one to which he gave an idiosyncratic, but useful, definition, putting it in close concordance with the issue of historical inevitability.

As we discover the eonic effect, we enter at once into this terrain, and a remarkable paradox arises. We find the secret to the long lost science of history, at least on one level, and even as we do that we are forced, quite correctly, to confront the issue of freedom. That is, we find in practice the need to apply the theme of causality, and at one and the same time this demands reckoning with the idea of freedom. This approach has a sense of rightness to it, if we can see the way to handle what seems like a stark contradiction. In fact, we undergo a sense of recognition: we realize that this perspective is something that we deal with everyday, it is part of our tacit repertory of concepts that we subliminally invoke in the most common situations, from driving in traffic, to playing in games, to participating in organizational structures, to using a computer mouse. We confront situations where a given causal structure is confronted by a 'system' of agents who have, if not free will (a very metaphysical concept), then a set of options and the ability to select from those options. This hybrid situation of causal mechanics and free activity is the simplest, and once seen, obvious, solution to the outstanding paradox of historical determinism misapplied. The eonic effect yields to this kind of analysis: there is a factor of macro dynamics and micro free action.

More, the eonic effect suggests how to apply the idea of a science of history by directly looking at the idea of the 'causality of freedom', an idea whose instantaneous short-circuit leads us to its resolution in the empirical facts of the eonic effect, and a judicious look at the work of Kant. And to the need for a new type of model to deal with this fascinating paradox, one that stands between the demands of science, which it fulfills, and the philosophy of history. The eonic effect, in fact, shows in plain sight the properties of particular type of model, one operating at a high degree of abstraction, yet very simple in its basic dynamics. This model, what we call the 'eonic model', is a kind 'system by default', and allows us apply simultaneously a consideration of causality and freedom. The facts speak for themselves, and all we have to do is construct a matrix of periodization that will garland the data we associate with the dynamics of the eonic effect.

There is thus something utterly simple and practical about the eonic model, despite its outward indications of something much deeper. We can approach this mystery in stages even as we become immersed in the fascinating details of the eonic phenomenon. In many ways the eonic model is, remarkably, and at first almost outlandishly, a way to deal with what we perceive as a cyclical phenomenon. In fact, the model will rescue us from the confusions of such thinking, which has a long history, and a record of thorough confusion. At first, the eonic effect can seem a very strange way to approach the issue of history, but with a little experience we can see that resolves our perplexities as to the question of history even as it enters finally into the difficult and mysterious domain of what we should call 'Big History', or 'macro-history'.

The question of the eonic effect highlights the crisis of theory that haunts the outcome of scientism in the emergence of modern science, and demands that we understand theories as embedded historical phenomena themselves, whose non-linear effects on historical outcomes itself requires study and analysis. This issue was in fact an emerging concern in Karl Popper's treatment of historicism, where he pointed to what he called the Oedipus paradox, where predictions about the future themselves can alter that future. Given this the status of a theory of history, or evolution, might be challenged on the grounds of its pseudo-objectivity. One task of the eonic model, therefore, is an effort to produce a new kind of theory that can handle this self-interaction of theory, theorist and historical agents.

As we proceed it will slowly dawn on us that our historical analysis is impinging on the question of evolution itself, and we can braid our discussion together with a new perspective on the meaning of evolution.