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(2004) Space, time, and culture, Dordrecht, Springer.

Authentic historicality

Steven Crowell

pp. 57-71

We are besotted with history and the current impoverishment of philosophy is the result. Where other ages would seek to understand things by grasping them as Ideas in the mind of God, we look only to antecedents. We worry not about divine judgment but about the judgment of history, as though the meaning of our acts, obscure to us, will be clear with just a little more time. Thinking dares nothing against what Merleau-Ponty called the "weight of history," because in the last analysis it believes that it is nothing without history. It wishes only to trace developments, offer genealogies, tell stories. But what else is there? History is the alchemy of time—responsible for everything and to no one. It seems that all things have become and that their meaning is a function of this emergence, development, growth, and decay. Where such phenomena are present, the historical mode of understanding is at home. If philosophy imagines itself in possession of other resources— "timeless truths"—let it show just what these resources apply to. If it cannot, let it keep silent, let it cede its mantle to the historian, the story-teller, or the evolutionary biologist. It is said that Zeus, the immortal Olympian who laughs at history and the foibles of men, escaped being devoured by his father Kronos, time. But the escape was only temporary. The Titan has long since dispatched his all-too-mortal son, leaving nothing to devour but himself—the image of time as the serpent swallowing its tail.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-2824-3_5

Full citation:

Crowell, S. (2004)., Authentic historicality, in D. Carr & C. Cheung (eds.), Space, time, and culture, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 57-71.

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