BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois


The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


History of the philosophy of history

by Robert Flint

Excerpt:

heavens and the earth, of plants and animals, but it is certainly not immediately concerned with them. The only kind of his

excellence, human history, what has happened within the sphere of human agency and interests, the actions and creations of men, events which have affected the lives and destinies of men, or which have been produced by men. This is the ordinary sense of the word history, and it is the sense in which it will ordinarily be employed in these pages. No further restrictionjin.its signification will be imposed or implied. Indeed^all further restrictions must mislead, and all defini

^tions which involve them are to be rejected. History is all

V that man has suffered, thought, and executed—the entire life of \ humanity—the whole movement of societies. It is history thus understood which is the subject of the art, and the science, and the philosophy of history,—of the art which recalls and delineates it, of the science which analyses it and traces its laws, and of the philosophy which exhibits it in its relations to the general system of the universe. To attempt further to define it would be worse than useless. It would be unduly to limit, and to distort and pervert, its meaning. In proof of this a few brief remarks on certain typical or celebrated definitions of history may perhaps be of service.

The 4efinition_given in the Dictionary of the French Academy —" l'histoire est le ricit des choses dignes de memoire "—is a specimen of a very numerous species. According to such definitions. history consists of exceptional things, of celebrated or notorious events, of the lives and actions of great and exalted men, of conspicuous achievements in war and politics, in science and art, in religion and literature. But this is a narrow and superficial conception of history. History is made up of what is little as well as of what is great, of what is common as well as of what is strange, of what is counted mean as well as of what is counted noble. The obscure agency of the masses is more potent in forming it than the brilliant achievements of the few. Things of frequent recurrence are more important than those which are rare. A history of wages or prices is at least as instructive as a history of battles and political intrigues. The historian has no right to despise the smallest incidents, the humblest lives; foFESe gre^tis explained^ByliheTittle, and the life of humanity is unfolded not merely through a few of its members but through all.

Dr Arnold's definition—"history is the biography of a society "1—has been often praised. Nor altogether undeservedly. For it directs attention to the fact that all history accords with biography in supposing in its subject a certain unity of life, work, and end. Unless individuals truly form a society there cannot be a history of them as a society, whether family or tribe, trade or corporation, Church or nation, but only a collection of biographies of them as individuals. It does not follow, however, that biography is a more general notion than history, and history only a species of biography. In fact, it is not only as true and intelligible to say that biography is the history of an individual as to say that history is the biography of a society, but more so. It is the word biography in the latter case which is used in a secondary and analogical sense, not the word history in the former case. The two meanings most appropriately and commonly assigned to the word history are very general ones, whereas the only meaning of the word biography in current use is a very different one. Therefore, although there may be no harm, or even may be gain, in giving the term history at times a special meaning for the special purpose of opposing it to biography, it must be erroneous to represent biography as the genus and history as the species. On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable to regard history, even when meaning thereby human history, as a genus of which the history of individuals (biography) is one species and the history of societies another. When Dr Arnold proceeds to represent "the life of that highest and sovereign society which we call a State or nation " as especially the proper subject of history, he seems to us, of course, to go still further astray from the truth. There is no real reason discoverable for such exclusiveness. T_he history ofthe Church is As_much_histqry as the history of. the State-- The history of philosophy or of art is not less truly history than the history of England or of Trance.

According to Mr Freeman, "history is past politics and poli


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