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HOW IS HISTORY POSSIBLE? 1905

How DOES THE raw material of immediate experience come to be the theoretical structure which we call history? To demonstrate this is to develop a critique of historical realism-of the view that the science of history should provide a mirror image of the past "as it really was." Such a view commits no less and error than does realism in art, which pretends to copy reality without being aware how thoroughly this act of "copying" in fact stylizes the contents of reality.

In the cognition of nature, the formative influence of the human mind is generally recognized. For history this influence is less easily perceived because the material of history is mind itself. When the human mind creates history, the independent character of the categories it uses and the way they mold the materials are less apparent than in natural science. Over against historical realism, which sees historiography as merely reproducing events, at most with some quantitative condensation, we must show the justification of asking, in the Kantian sense, how is history possible? The answer Kant gave to his question-How is nature possible?-is of value for a philosophy of life. Its value has to do with the freedom the ego has won, thanks to Kant, over against nature. Inasmuch as the ego produces nature as its conception, and the general laws constitutive of nature are nothing other than the forms of our mind, natural existence has been subordinated to the sovereign ego. Not, to be sure, to the ego's arbitrariness and characteristic changes, but to its being and the imperatives of those being-imperatives which do not stem from norms external to the ego, but make up its very life.

Comments  

History is subjective.