chapter  6
3 Pages

The Role of the Particular and the General in the Study of Universal History (A manuscript of the 1860s)

History admittedly can never have the unity of a philosophical system; but history is not without inner connection. We see before us a series of events which follow and condition each other. To say condition does not, of course, denote absolute necessity. Rather, the important point is that human freedom is everywhere brought into play. Historical writing traces the scenes of freedom; this is the source of its greatest attraction. Freedom, however, is accompanied by force – that is to say, by original force. Without this force freedom would cease in the events of the world as well as in the realm of ideas. At any moment something new can begin again which can be traced back only to the fi rst and common source of all human activity. Nothing exists entirely for the sake of the other. Nothing is absorbed entirely in the reality of the other. But still a deep inner relationship exists from which nobody is entirely free and which enters into everything. Freedom and necessity exist side by side. Necessity lies in that which has already been formed and cannot be overturned again, which is the basis of all newly emerging activity. What has developed in the past constitutes the connection with what is in the process of becoming. But even this connection is not to be assumed arbitrarily; it exists in a certain way and in no other. It, too, is an object of cognition. A longer series of successive and concurrent events, connected in this way with each other, forms a century, an epoch. The varied character of the epochs rests on the fact that different times and different circumstances result from the struggle of the confl icting principles of freedom and necessity. If, with this in mind, we visualize the sequence of the centuries, each with its own original character, all linked to one another, we have before us universal history from the beginning to the present day. Universal history encompasses the past life of the human race in its fullness and totality, not in its individual relationships and directions.