Philosophy of History

What is history? A possible definition is: History is change over time. But what kind of change are we talking about. Given that history is everything that has happened, what kind of selection processes are used to ‘make history’? Aristotle believes that what is important is not: “the thing which has happened, but rather what might have happened…and may happen again” in other words history must understand the universal significance of events, and be able to give knowledge of human nature and people’s predictable behavior. Can history teach us in this way? And even if it could, will we ever ‘learn from history’? In this course we will firstly consider what history is and then study the ideas of some of the great philosophers as they come to grips with the meaning and methods of history.

In the third section of the course we will consider biography and history in TV and film. For example, Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood self-consciously plays with ‘history’ altering certain ‘facts’ as a critical act about how we construct history. We will also consider ‘The History Channel’: History has always been popular as a form of entertainment: what are the compromises which must be made to make it entertaining.

This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.

COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction: What is History? Does history have a pattern, or is it just a series of random, unpredictable events? If it does have a pattern what is that pattern, if not does history determine the future beyond any individual or collective human will? It is a claim of Modern historiography that history should be objective and free from ideological prescriptions, but is this ever possible?
  • Herodotus (484 BC) - The Father of History: Herodotus is taken to be the first historian because he: Uses human testimony and empirical observation rather than mythological stories as the content of his histories; Gives a narrative to the events; Looks for causal connects between events; Gives some commentary on the probability of events being true and their significance.
  • Late Greek and Roman History: Selected readings from Thucydides and Lucian’s How to Write History (Second Century AD) Readings from Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography by John Marincola.
  • Universal Narratives - Aristotle (384-322 BC): Aristotle does not think much of histories which just chronicle events, he believes that what is important is not: “the thing which has happened, but rather what might have happened…and may happen again” in other words history must understand the universal significance of events, and be able to give knowledge of human nature and people’s predictable behavior. Selective readings from The Poetics.
  • Hegel (1770-1831): Does history have a Teleology? Certainly many of the philosophers of history have thought so: Hegel defines it as ‘the progress of human consciousnesses. Extracts from Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. Extracts from Stephen Houlgate’s: Freedom, Truth and History.
  • The Romantics: This week we will take a selection of philosophers from the 19th century who attempt to understand history from a ‘poetic’ point of view.
  • Modernism: Modernists in general sees history in terms of progress in technology, science, economics, human equality, individual freedom, alternatively postmodernism does not understand history to have a teleological process of human social progress. We will consider these alternatives.
  • Biography, Autobiography and History: Can the individual, subjective experiences of humans be considered history? Text Biography and History by Barbara Caine.
  • History and Film: For example, Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood self-consciously plays with ‘history’ altering certain ‘facts’ as a critical act concerning how we construct history. Many people’s ‘knowledge’ of history comes not from reading history books but through popular culture, particularly film and television.
  • The History Channel: History has always been popular as a form of entertainment: what are the compromises which must be made to make it entertaining.

PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Identify the main theories of History from the Greeks to the present.
  2. Discuss issues such as: Is history a form of ‘fiction’; does it have a pattern; What is that pattern.
  3. Discuss whether History is a useful predictor of the future.
$270 Limited / $243

<p>What is history? A possible definition is: History is change over time. But what kind of change are we talking about. Given that history is everything that has happened, what kind of selection

...
02 Feb

Interested in this course but can't attend? Please join the waiting list by clicking .