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II PSEUDO-HISTORIES
I

History, chronicle, and philology, of which we have seen the origin, are series of mental forms, which, although distinct from one another, must all of them be looked upon as physiological—that is to say, true and rational. But logical sequence now leads me from physiology to pathology—to those forms that are not forms but deformations, not true but erroneous, not rational but irrational.

The ingenuous belief cherished by the philologists that they have history locked up in their libraries, museums, and archives (something in the same manner as the genius of the Arabian Nights, who was shut up in a small vase in the form of compressed smoke) does not remain inactive, and gives rise to the idea of a history constructed with things, traditions, and documents (empty traditions and dead documents), and this affords an instance of what may be called philological history. I say the idea and not the reality, because it is simply impossible to compose a history with external things, whatever efforts may be made and whatever trouble be taken. Chronicles that have been weeded, chopped up into fragments, recombined, rearranged, always remain nevertheless chronicles—that is to say, empty narratives; and documents that have been restored, reproduced, described, brought into line, remain documents—that is to say, silent things. Philological history consists of the pouring out of one or[Pg 28] more books into a new book. This operation bears an appropriate name in current language and is known as 'compilation.' These compilations are frequently convenient, because they save the trouble of having recourse to several books at the same time; but they do not contain any historical thought. Modern chronological philologists regard medieval chroniclers and the old Italian historians (from Machiavelli and Guicciardini down to Giannone) with a feeling of superiority. These writers 'transcribed,' as they called it, their 'sources' in the parts of their books that are devoted to narrative—that is to say, chronicle. Yet they themselves do not and cannot behave otherwise, because when history is being composed from 'sources' as external things there is never anything else to do but to transcribe the sources. Transcription is varied by sometimes summarizing and sometimes altering the words, and this is sometimes a question of good taste and sometimes a literary pretence; it is also a verifying of quotations, which is sometimes a proof of loyalty and exactitude, sometimes a make-believe and a making oneself believe that the feet are planted firmly on the earth, on the soil of truth, believed to be narrative and quotation from the document. How very many of such philological historians there are in our time, especially since the so-called 'philological method' has been exaggerated—that is to say, a one-sided value has been attributed to it! These histories have indeed a dignified and scientific appearance, but unfortunately fehlt leider! das geistige Band, the spiritual tie is wanting. They really consist at bottom of nothing but learned or very learned 'chronicles,' sometimes of use for purposes of consultation, but lacking words that nourish and keep warm the minds and souls of men.

[Pg 29]

Nevertheless, since we have demonstrated that philological history really presents chronicles and documents and not histories, it might be asked upon what possible ground do we accuse it of irrationality and error, seeing that we have regarded the formation of chronicles, the collection of documents, and all the care that is expended Upon them as most rational? But error never lies in the fact, but only in the 'claim' or 'idea' that accompanies the fact. And in this case the idea or claim is that which has been defined above as properly belonging to philological history—namely, that of composing histories with documents and narratives. This claim can be said to exercise a rational function also, to the extent that it lays down the claim, though without satisfying it, that history should go beyond the mere chronicle or document. But in so far as it makes the claim, without itself fulfilling it, this mode of history must be characterized as contradictory and absurd.

And since the claim is absurd, philological history remains without truth as being that which, like chronicle, has not got truth within it, but derives it from the authority to which it appeals. It will be claimed for philology that it tests authorities and selects those most worthy of faith. But without dwelling upon the fact that chronicle also, and chronicle of the crudest, most ignorant and credulous sort, proceeded in a like manner by testing and selecting those authorities which seemed to it to be the most worthy of faith, it is always a question of faith (that is to say, of the thought of others and of thought belonging to the past) and not of criticism (that is to say, of our own thought in the act), of verisimilitude and not of that certainty which is truth. Hence philological history can certainly be correct, but not true (richtig and not wahr). And as it is without truth,[Pg 30] so is it without true historical interest—that is to say, it sheds no light upon an order of facts answering to a practical and ethical want; it may embrace any matter indifferently, however remote it be from the practical and ethical soul of the compiler. Thus, as a pure philologist, I enjoy the free choice of indifference, and the history of Italy for the last half-century has the same value for me as that of the Chinese dynasty of the Tsin. I shall turn from one to the other, moved, no doubt, by a certain interest, but by an extra-historical interest, of the sort formed in the special circle of philology.

This procedure, which is without truth and without passion, and is proper to philological history, explains the marked contrast so constantly renewed between the philological historians and historians properly so called. These latter, intent as they are upon the solution of vital problems, grow impatient to find themselves offered in reply the frigid products of philology, or become angry at the persistent assertion that such is history, and that it must be treated in such a spirit and with such methods. Perhaps the finest explosion of such a feeling of anger and annoyance is to be found in the Letters on the Study of History (1751) of Bolingbroke, in which erudition is treated as neither more nor less than sumptuous ignorance, and learned disquisitions upon ancient or primitive history are admitted at the most as resembling those 'eccentric preludes' which precede concerts and aid in setting the instruments in tune and that can only be mistaken for harmony by some one without ear, just in the same way as only he who is without historic sense can confuse those exhibitions of erudition with true history. As an antithesis to them he suggests as an ideal a kind of 'political maps,'[Pg 31] for the use of the intellect and not of the memory, indicating the Storie fiorentine of Machiavelli and the Trattato dei benefici of Fra Paolo as writings that approach that ideal. Finally he maintains that for true and living history we should not go beyond the beginning of the sixteenth century, beyond Charles V and Henry VIII, when the political and social history of Europe first appeared—a system which still persisted at the beginning of the eighteenth century. He then proceeds to paint a picture of those two centuries of history, for the use, not of the curious and the erudite, but of politicians, too one, I think, would wish to deny the just sentiment for history which animates these demands, set forth in so vivacious a manner. Bolingbroke, however, did not rise, nor was it possible for him to rise, to the conception of the death and rebirth of every history (which is the rigorously speculative concept of 'actual' and 'contemporary' history), owing to the conditions of culture of his time, nor did he suspect that primitive barbaric history, which he threw into a corner as useless dead leaves, would reappear quite fresh half a century later, as the result of the reaction against intellectualism and Jacobinism, and that this reaction would have as one of its principal promoters a publicist of his own country, Burke, nor indeed that it had already reappeared in his own time in a corner of Italy, in the mind and soul of Giambattista Vico. I shall not adduce further instances of the conflict between effective and philological historians, after this conspicuous one of Bolingbroke, because it is exceedingly well known, and the strife is resumed under our very eyes at every moment. I shall only add that it is certainly deplorable (though altogether natural, because blows are not measured in a struggle) that the[Pg 32] polemic against the 'philologists' should have been transferred so as to include also the philologues pure and simple. For these latter, the poor learned ones, archivists and arch?ologists, are harmless, beneficent little souls. If they should be destroyed, as is sometimes prophesied in the heat of controversy, the fertility of the spiritual field would be not only diminished, but ruined altogether, and we should be obliged to promote to the utmost of our power the reintroduction of those coefficients of our culture, very much in the same way as is said to have been the case with French agriculture after the improvident harrying of the harmless and beneficent wasps which went on for several years.

Whatever of justified or justifiable is to be found in the statements as to the uncertainty and uselessness of history is also due to the revolt of the pure historic sense against philological history. This is to be assumed from observing that even the most radical of those opponents (Fontenelle, Volney, Delfico, etc.) end by admitting or demanding some form of history as not useless or uncertain, or not altogether useless and uncertain, and from the fact that all their shafts are directed against philological history and that founded upon authority, of which the only appropriate definition is that of Rousseau (in the émile), as l'art de choisir entre plusieurs mensonges, celui qui ressemble mieux à la vérité.

In all other respects—that is to say, as regards the part due to sensational and naturalistic assumptions—historical scepticism contradicts itself here, like every form of scepticism, for the natural sciences themselves, thus raised to the rank of model, are founded upon perceptions, observations, and experiments—that is to say, upon facts historically ascertained—and the[Pg 33] 'sensations,' upon which the whole truth of knowledge is based, are not themselves knowledge, save to the extent that they assume the form of affirmations—that is to say, in so far as they are history.

But the truth is that philological history, like every other sort of error, does not fall before the enemy's attack, but rather solely from internal causes, and it is its own professors that destroy it, when they conceive of it as without connexion with life, as merely a learned exercise (note the many histories that are treatments of scholastic themes, undertaken with a view to training in the art of research, interpretation, and exposition, and the many others that are continuations of this direction outside the school and are due to tendency there imparted), and when they themselves evince uncertainty, surrounding every statement that they make with doubts. The distinction between criticism and hypercriticism has been drawn with a view to arresting this spontaneous dissolution of historical philology; thus we find the former praised and allowed, while the latter is blamed and forbidden. But the distinction is one of the customary sort, by means of which lack of intelligence disguised as love of moderation contrives to chip off the edges from the antitheses that it fails to solve. Hypercriticism is the prosecution of criticism; it is criticism itself, and to divide criticism into a more and a less, and to admit the less and deny the more, is extravagant, to say the least of it. No 'authorities' are certain while others are uncertain, but all are uncertain, varying in uncertainty in an extrinsic and conjectural manner. Who can guarantee himself against the false statement made by the usually diligent and trustworthy witness in a moment of distraction or of passion? A sixteenth-century inscription, still to[Pg 34] be read in one of the old byways of Naples, wisely prays God (and historical philologists should pray to Him fervently every morning) to deliver us now and for ever from the lies of honest men. Thus historians who push criticism to the point of so-called hypercriticism perform a most instructive philosophical duty when they render the whole of such work vain, and therefore fit to be called by the title of Sanchez's work Quod nihil scitur. I recollect the remark made to me when I was occupied with research work in my young days by a friend of but slight literary knowledge, to whom I had lent a very critical, indeed hypercritical, history of ancient Rome. When he had finished reading it he returned the book to me, remarking that he had acquired the proud conviction of being "the most learned of philologists," because the latter arrive at the conclusion that they know nothing as the result of exhausting toil, while he knew nothing without any effort at all, simply as a generous gift of nature.[1]
II

The consequence of this spontaneous dissolution of philological history should be the negation of history claimed to have been written with the aid of narratives and documents conceived as external things, and the consignment of these to their proper lower place as mere aids to historical knowledge, as it determines and redetermines itself in the development of the spirit. But if such consequences are distasteful and the project is persevered in of thus writing history in spite of repeated failures, the further problem then presents itself as to how the cold indifference of philological history and its[Pg 35] intrinsic uncertainty can be healed without changing those presumptions. The problem, itself fallacious, can receive but a fallacious solution, expressed by the substitution of the interest of sentiment for the lack of interest of thought and of ?sthetic coherence of representation for the logical coherence here unobtainable. The new erroneous form of history thus obtained is poetical history.

Numerous examples of this kind of history are afforded by the affectionate biographies of persons much beloved and venerated and by the satirical biographies of the detested; patriotic histories which vaunt the glory and lament the misadventures of the people to which the author belongs and with which he sympathizes, and those that shed a sinister light upon the enemy people, adversary of his own; universal history, illuminated with the ideals of liberalism or humanitarianism, that composed by a socialist, depicting the acts, as Marx said, of the "cavalier of the sorry countenance," in other words of the capitalist, that of the anti-Semite, who shows the Jew to be everywhere the source of human misfortune and of human turpitude and the persecution of the Jew to be the acme of human splendour and happiness. Nor is poetical history exhausted with this fundamental and general description of love and hate (love that is hate and hate that is love), for it passes through all the most intricate forms, the fine gradations of sentiment. Thus we have poetical histories which are amorous, melancholy, nostalgic, pessimistic, resigned, confident, cheerful, and as many other sorts as one can imagine. Herodotus celebrates the romance of the jealousies of the gods, Livy the epos of Roman virtue, Tacitus composes horrible tragedies, Elizabethan dramas in sculptural Latin prose. If we turn to the most modern among the[Pg 36] moderns, we find Droysen giving expression to his lyrical aspiration toward the strong centralized state in his history of Macedonia, that Prussia of Hellas; Grote to his aspirations toward democratic institutions, as symbolized in Athens; Mommsen to those directed toward empire, as symbolized in C?sar; Balbo pouring forth all his ardours for Latin independence, employing for that purpose all the records of Latin battles and beginning with nothing less than those between the Itali and Etrusci against the Pelasgi; Thierry celebrating the middle class in the history of the Third Estate represented by Jacques Bonhomme; the Goncourts writing voluptuous fiction round the figures of Mme de Pompadour, of Mme Du Barry, of Marie Antoinette, more careful of the material and cut of garments than of thoughts; and, finally, De Barante, in his history of the Dukes of Burgundy, having his eye upon knights and ladies, arms and love.

It may seem that the indifference of philological history is thus truly conquered and historical material dominated by a principle and criterion of values. This is the demand persistently addressed to history from all sides in our day by methodologists and philosophers. But I have avoided the word 'value' hitherto, owing to its equivocal meaning, apt to deceive many. For since history is history of the spirit, and since spirit is value, and indeed the only value that is possible to conceive, that history is clearly always history of values; and since the spirit becomes transparent to itself as thought in the consciousness of the historian, the value that rules the writing of history is the value of thought. But precisely for this reason its principle of determination cannot be the value known as the value of 'sentiment,' which is life and not thought, and when this life finds[Pg 37] expression and representation, before it has been dominated by thought, we have poetry, not history. In order to turn poetical biography into truly historical biography we must repress our loves, our tears, our scorn, and seek what function the individual has fulfilled in social activity or civilization; and we must do the same for national history as for that of humanity, and for every group of facts, small or great, as for every order of events. We must supersede—that is to say, transform—values of sentiment with values of thought. If we do not find ourselves able to rise to this 'subjectivity' of thought, we shall produce poetry and not history: the historical problem will remain intact, or, rather, it will not yet have come into being, but will do so when the requisite conditions are present. The interest that stirs us in the former case is not that of life which becomes thought, but of life which becomes intuition and imagination.

And since we have entered the domain of poetry, while the historical problem remains beyond, erudition Or philology, from which we seem to have started, remains something on this side—that is to say, is altogether surpassed. In philological history, notwithstanding the claims made by it, chronicles and documents persist in their crude natural and undigested state. But these are profoundly changed in poetical history; or, to speak with greater accuracy, they are simply dissolved. Let us ignore the case (common enough) of the historian who, with a view to obtaining artistic effects, intentionally mingles his inventions with the data provided by the chronicles and documents, endeavouring to make them pass for history—that is to say, he renders himself guilty of a lie and is the cause of confusion. But the alteration that is continuous and inherent to historiography consists of the choice and connexion of[Pg 38] the details themselves, selected from the 'sources,' rather owing to motives of sentiment than of thought. This, closely considered, is really an invention or imagining of the facts; the new connexion becomes concrete in a newly imagined fact. And since the data that are taken from the 'sources' do not always lend themselves with docility to the required connexion, it is considered permissible to solliciter doucement les textes (as, if I am not mistaken, Renan, one of the historian-poets, remarked) and to add imaginary particulars, though in a conjectural form, to the actual data. Vossius blamed those Grecian historians, and historians of other nations, who, when they invent fables, ad effugiendam vanitatis notam satis fore putant si addant solemne suum 'aiunt,' 'fertur,' vel aliquid quod tantundem valeat. But even in our own day it would be diverting and instructive to catalogue the forms of insinuation employed by historians who pass for being most weighty, with a view to introducing their own personal imaginings: 'perhaps,' 'it would seem,' 'one would say,' 'it is pleasant to think,' 'we may infer,' 'it is probable,' 'it is evident,' and the like; and to note how they sometimes come to omit these warnings and recount things that they have themselves imagined as though they had seen them, in order to complete their picture, regarding which they would be much embarrassed if some one, indiscreet as an enfant terrible, should chance to ask them: "How do you know it?" "Who told you this?" Recourse has been had to the methodological theory of "imagination necessary for the historian who does not wish to become a mere chronicler," to an imagination, that is to say, which shall be reconstructive and integrating; or, as is also said, to "the necessity of integrating the historical datum with our personal psychology[Pg 39] or psychological knowledge." This theory, similar to that of value in history, also contains an equivocation. For doubtless imagination is indispensable to the historian: empty criticism, empty narrative, the concept without intuition or imagination, are altogether sterile; and this has been said and said again in these pages, when we have demanded the vivid experience of the events whose history we have undertaken to relate, which also means their re-elaboration as intuition and imagination. Without this imaginative reconstruction or integration it is not possible to write history, or to read it, or to understand it. But this sort of imagination, which is really quite indispensable to the historian, is the imagination that is inseparable from the historical synthesis, the imagination in and for thought, the concreteness of thought, which is never an abstract concept, but always a relation and a judgment, not indetermination but determination. It is nevertheless to be radically distinguished from the free poetic imagination, dear to those historians who see and hear the face and the voice of Jesus on the Lake of Tiberias, or follow Heraclitus on his daily walks among the hills of Ephesus, or repeat again the secret colloquies between Francis of Assisi and the sweet Umbrian countryside.

Here too we shall be asked of what error, then, we can accuse poetical history, if it be poetry (a necessary form of the spirit and one of the dearest to the heart of man) and not history. But here also we must reply—in manner analogous to our reply in the case of philological history—that the error does not lie in what is done, but in what is claimed to be done: not in creating poetry, but in calling histories that are poetry poetical histories, which is a contradiction in terms. So far am I from entertaining the thought of objecting to poetry[Pg 40] woven out of historical data that I wish to affirm that a great part of pure poetry, especially in modern times, is to be found in books that are called histories. The epic, for instance, did not, as is believed, die in the nineteenth century, but it is not to be found in the 'epic poems' of Botta, of Bagnoli, of Bellini, or of Bandettini, where it is sought by short-sighted classifiers of literature, but in narratives of the history of the Risorgimento, where are poured forth epic, drama, satire, idyll, elegy, and as many other 'kinds of poetry' as may be desired. The historiography of the Risorgimento is in great part a poetical historiography, rich in legends which still await the historian, or have met with him only occasionally and by chance, exactly like ancient or medieval epic, which, if it were really poetry, was yet believed by its hearers, and often perhaps by its composers themselves, to be history. And I claim for others and for myself the right to imagine history as dictated by my personal feeling; to imagine, for instance, an Italy as fair as a beloved woman, as dear as the tenderest of mothers, as austere as a venerated ancestress, to seek out her doings through the centuries and even to prophesy her future, and to create for myself in history idols of hatred and of love, to embellish yet more the charming, if I will, and to make the unpleasant yet more unpleasant. I claim to seek out every memory and every particular, the expressions of countenance, the gestures, the garments, the dwellings, every kind of insignificant particular (insignificant for others or in other respects, but not for me at that moment), almost physically to approach my friends and my mistresses, of both of which I possess a fine circle or harem in history. But it remains evident that when I or others have the intention of writing history, true history and not poetical history,[Pg 41] we shall clear away myths and idols, friends and mistresses, devoting our attention solely to the problem of history, which is spirit or value (or if less philosophical and more colloquial terms be preferred, culture, civilization, progress), and we shall look upon them with the two eyes and the single sight of thought. And when some one, in that sphere or at that altitude, begins to talk to us of the sentiments that but a short while ago were tumultuous in our breasts, we shall listen to him as to one who talks of things that are henceforth distant and dead, in which we no longer participate, because the only sentiment that now fills our soul is the sentiment of truth, the search for historical truth.

[1] See Appendix I.
III

With poetical history—that is to say, with the falling back of history into a form ideally anterior, that of poetry—the cycle of erroneous forms of history (or of erroneous theoretical forms) is complete. But my discourse would not perhaps be complete were I to remain silent as to a so-called form of history which had great importance in antiquity when it developed its own theory. It continues to have some importance in our own day, although now inclined to conceal its face, to change its garments, and to disguise itself. This is the history known in antiquity as oratory or rhetoric. Its object was to teach philosophy by example, to incite to virtuous conduct, to impart instruction as to the best political and military institutions, or simply to delight, according to the various intentions of the rhetoricians. And even in our own day this type of history is demanded and supplied not only in the elementary schools (where it seems to be understood that the bitter of wisdom[Pg 42] should be imbibed by youth mingled with the sweet of fable), but among grown men. It is closely linked up with politics, where it is a question of politics, or with religion, philosophy, morality, and the like, where they are concerned, or with diversions, as in the case of anecdotes, of strange events, of scandalous and terrifying histories. But can this, I ask, be considered, I do not say history, but an erroneous (theoretical) form of history? The structure of rhetorical history presupposes a history that already exists, or at least a poetical history, narrated with a practical end. The end would be to induce an emotion leading to virtue, to remorse, to shame, or to enthusiasm; or perhaps to provide repose for the soul, such as is supplied by games; or to introduce into the mind a historical, philosophical, or scientific truth (movere, delectare, docere, or in whatever way it may be decided to classify these ends); but it will always be an end—that is to say, a practical act, which avails itself of the telling of the history as a means or as one of its means. Hence rhetorical history (which would be more correctly termed practicistical history) is composed of two elements, history and the practical end, converging into one, which is the practical act. For this reason one cannot attack it, but only its theory, which is the already mentioned theory, so celebrated in antiquity, of history as opus oratorium, as φιλοσοφ?α ?κ παραδειγμ?των, as ?ποδεικτικ?, as ν?κη? γ?μνασμα (if warlike), or γνωμη? πα?δενμα (if political), or as evocative of ?δον?, and the like. This doctrine is altogether analogous to the hedonistic and pedagogic doctrine relating to poetry which at that time dominated. It was believed possible to assign an end to poetry, whereas an extrinsic end was assigned to it, and poetry was thus passed over without being[Pg 43] touched. Practicistical history (which, however, is not history) is exempt from censure as a practical act: each one of us is not content with inquiring into history, but also acts, and in acting can quite well avail himself of the re-evocation of this or that image, with a view to stimulating his own work, or (which comes to the same thing) the work of others. He can, indeed, read and re-read all the books that have from time to time been of assistance to him, as Cato the younger had recourse to reading the Ph?do in order to prepare himself for suicide, while others have prepared themselves for it by reading Werther, Ortis, or the poems of Leopardi. From the time of the Renaissance to the eighteenth century, many others prepared themselves for conspiracies and tyrannicides by reading Plutarch, and so much was this the case that one of them, the youthful Boscoli, when condemned to death for a conspiracy against the Medici, remarked in his last hour to Della Robbia (who recounts the incident), "Get Brutus out of my head!"—Brutus, not, that is to say, the history of Brutus that he had read and thought about, but that by which he had been fascinated and urged on to commit the crime. For the rest, true and proper history is not that Brutus which procreated the modern Bruti with their daggers, but Brutus as thought and situated in the world of thought.

One might be induced to assign a special place to the history now known as biased, because, on the one hand, it seems that it is not a simple history of sentiment and poetry, since it has an end to attain, and on the other because such end is not imposed upon it from without, but coincides with the conception of history itself. Hence it would seem fitting to look upon it as a form of history standing half-way between poetry and practicism,[Pg 44] a mixture of the two. But mixed forms and hybrid products exist only in the fictitious classifications of empiricists, never in the reality of the spirit, and biased history, when closely examined, is really either poetical history or practicistical history. An exception must always be made of the books in which the two moments are sometimes to be found side by side, as indeed one usually finds true history and chronicle and the document and philological and poetical history side by side. What gives the illusion of a mingling or of a special form of history is the fact that many take their point of departure from poetical inspiration (love of country, faith in their country, enthusiasm for a great man, and so on) and end with practical calculations: they begin with poetry and end with the allegations of the special pleader, and sometimes, although more rarely, they follow an opposite course. This duplication is to be observed in the numerous histories of parties that have been composed since the world was a world, and it is not difficult to discover in what parts of them we have manifestations of poetry and in what parts of calculation. Good taste and criticism are continually effecting this separation for history, as for art and poetry in general.

It is true that good taste loves and accepts poetry and discriminates between the practical intentions of the poet and those of the historian-poet; but those intentions are received and admitted by the moral conscience, provided always that they are good intentions and consequently good actions; and although people are disposed to speak ill of advocates in general, it is certain that the honest advocate and the prudent orator cannot be dispensed with in social life. Nor has so-called practicistical history ever been dispensed with, either[Pg 45] according to the Gr?co-Roman practice, which was that of proposing portraits of statesmen, of captains, and of heroic women as models for the soul, or according to that of the Middle Ages, which was to repeat the lives of saints and hermits of the desert, or of knights strong of arm and of unshakable faith, or in our own modern world, which recommends as edifying and stimulating reading the lives and 'legends' of inventors, of business men, of explorers, and of millionaires. Educative histories, composed with the view of promoting definite practical or moral dispositions, really exist, and every Italian knows how great were the effects of Colletta's and Balbo's histories and the like during the period of the Risorgimento, and everyone knows books that have 'inspired' him or inculcated in him the love of his own country, of his town and steeple.

This moral efficacy, which belongs to morality and not to history, has had so strong a hold upon the mind that the prejudice still survives of assigning a moral function to history (as also to poetry) in the field of teaching. This prejudice is still to be found inspiring even Labriola's pedagogic essay on The Teaching of History. But if we mean by the word 'history' both history that is thought as well as that which, on the contrary, is poetry, philology, or moral will, it is clear that 'history' will enter the educational process not under one form alone, but under all these forms. But as history proper it will only enter it under one of them, which is not that of moral education, exclusively or abstractly considered, but of the education or development of thought.

[Pg 46]
IV

Much is said, now even more than formerly, of the necessity of a 'reform of history,' but to me there does not seem to be anything to reform. Nothing to reform in the sense attributed to such a demand—namely, that of moulding a new form of history or of creating for the first time true history. History is, has been, and always will be the same, what we have called living history, history that is (ideally) contemporary; and chronicle, philological history, poetical history, and (let us call it history nevertheless) practicistical history are, have been, and always will be the same. Those who undertake the task of creating a new history always succeed in setting up philological history against poetical history, or poetical history against philological history, or contemporary history against both of them, and so on. Unless, indeed, as is the case with Buckle and the many tiresome sociologists and positivists of the last ten years, they lament with great pomposity and no less lack of intelligence as to what history is that it lacks the capacity of observation and of experiment (that is to say, the naturalistic abstraction of observation and experiment), boasting that they 'reduce history to natural science'—that is to say, by the employment of a circle, as vicious as it is grotesque, to a mental form which is its pale derivative.

In another sense, everything is certainly to be reformed in history, and history is at every moment labouring to render herself perfect—that is to say, is enriching herself and probing more deeply into herself. There is no history that completely satisfies us, because any construction of ours generates new facts and new problems and solicits new solutions. Thus the history of Rome, of Greece, and of Christianity, of the Reformation, of[Pg 47] the French Revolution, of philosophy, of literature, and of any other subject is always being told afresh and always differently. But history reforms herself, remaining herself always, and the strength of her development lies precisely in thus enduring.

The demand for radical or abstract reform also cannot be given that other meaning of a reform of the 'idea of history,' of the discovery that is to be made or is finally made of the true concept of history. At all periods the distinction has to some extent been made between histories that are histories and those others that are works of imagination or chronicles. This could be demonstrated from the observations met with at all times among historians and methodologists, and from the confessions that even the most confused of them involuntarily let fall. It is also to be inferred with certainty from the nature itself of the human spirit, although the words in which those distinctions are expressed have not been written or are not preserved. And such a concept and distinction are renewed at every moment by history itself, which becomes ever more copious, more profound. This is to be looked upon as certain, and is for that matter made evident by the history of historiography, which has certainly accomplished some progress since the days of Diogenes of Halicarnassus and of Cicero to those of Hegel and of Humboldt. Other problems have been formed in our own day, some of which I attempt to solve in this book. I am well aware that it affords solutions only to some among the many, and especially that it does not solve (simply because it cannot) those that are not yet formed, but which will inevitably be formed in the future.

In any case it will be thought that the clearness[Pg 48] acquired by the historical consciousness as to the nature of its own work will at least avail to destroy the erroneous forms of history, that since we have shown that philological history or chronicle is not history, and that poetical history is poetry and not history, the 'facts' that correspond to those beliefs must disappear, or become ever more limited in extension, to the point of disappearing altogether in a near or distant future, as catapults have disappeared before guns and as we see carriages disappearing before, automobiles.

And this would be truly possible were these erroneous forms to become concrete in 'facts,' were they not, as I have said above, mere 'claims.' If error and evil were a fact, humanity would have long ago abolished it—that is to say, superseded it, in the same way as it has superseded slavery and serfdom and the method of simple barter and so many other things that were facts, that is to say, its own transitory forms. But error (and evil, which is one with it) is not a fact; it does not possess empirical existence; it is nothing but the negative or dialectical moment of the spirit, necessary for the concreteness of the positive moment, for the reality of the spirit. For this reason it is eternal and indestructible, and to destroy it by abstraction (since it cannot be done by thought) is equivalent to imagining the death of the spirit, as confirmed in the saying that abstraction is death.

And without occupying further space with the ex-position of a doctrine that would entail too wide a digression,[1] I shall observe that a glance at the history of history proves the salutary nature of error, which is not a Caliban, but rather an Ariel, who breathes everywhere, calling forth and exciting, but can never be grasped as a[Pg 49] solid thing. And with a view to seeking examples only in those general forms that have been hitherto examined, polemical and tendencious historiography is certainly to be termed error. This prevailed during the period of the enlightenment, and reduced history to a pleading against priests and tyrants. But who would have wished simply to return from this to the learned and apathetic history of the Benedictines and of the other authors of folios? The polemic and its direction expressed the need for living history, though not in an altogether satisfactory form, and this need was followed by the creation of a new historiography during the period of romanticism. The type of merely philological history, promulgated in Germany after 1820, and afterward disseminated throughout Europe, was also certainly error; but it was likewise an instrument of liberation from the more or less fantastic and arbitrary histories improvised by the philosophers. But who would wish to turn back from them to the 'philosophies of history'? The type of history, sometimes tendencious, but more often poetical, which followed in the wake of the national Italian movement, was also error—that is to say, it led to the loss of historical calm. But that poetical consciousness which surpassed itself when laying claim to historical truth was bound sooner or later to generate (as had been the case on a larger scale in the eighteenth century) a history linked with the interests of life without becoming servile and allowing itself to be led away by the phantoms of love and hate suggested by them. Further examples could be adduced, but the example of examples is that which happens within each of us when we are dealing with historical material. We see our sympathies and antipathies arise in turn as we proceed (our poetical history),[Pg 50] our intentions as practical men (our rhetorical history), our chroniclistical memories (our philological history); we mentally supersede these forms in turn, and in doing so find ourselves in possession of a new and more profound historical truth. Thus does history affirm itself, distinguishing itself from non-histories and conquering the dialectical moments which arise from these. It was for this reason that I said that there is never anything of anything to reform in the abstract, but everything of everything in the concrete.

[1] See Logic as Science of Pure Concept.—D. A.
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