History Is Rational Because the Victors Write It

Rational History: Soldiers Singing Together

If he or she is unable to recognize the good character of a moral law but just obeys it, he remains in what Kant called the stage of nonage of reason, namely in a condition where he is unable to think with his own understanding but just follows what others are telling him to do. Also, if he does not strive to create a community of free people, he is still in that stage.

A society made up exclusively of free people (in the ideal sense of which Kant and German Idealism spoke) does not exist yet; it is only a rational idea toward which all of us must strive, and the state with its government should help us in that direction. It is a benchmark that allows us to assess the actions of individuals and states.

When non-Western societies claim their right to keep their identity against Western imperialist culture, they claim the right to keep their traditions. But those traditions, in most cases, require keeping people in a nonage condition, where they are unable to be autonomous and to think with their own minds. 

Of course, this does not mean that Western imperialism is legitimate. This imperialism is, in fact, rarely, if ever, grounded on true rational values, but most of the time on the economic interests of Western companies, i.e., on sheer self-interest. 

Humanity lives in a state of continuous clash between its cultures and civilizations. The self-interest of those cultures produces this clash. But during that clash, as in the Hobbesian condition of people being wolves toward each other, either one of the cultures defeats the other, or an agreement between them is reached, in which they each recognize each other. Until now, the West has constantly been the victor. This is why Western civilization became a planetary civilization. 

Continuing our interpretation to Hegel’s philosophy, we must recall that this philosophy is history-based, i.e., it grounds the truth of its concepts not on timeless insights but on what becomes visible in and through history. If the West managed to impose its values everywhere, it would mean that these values were the true and real ones. (Sad but true: in this philosophy, the victors write the history. Or, as Hegel puts it: reality is always rational.)

There are no values in themselves in this philosophy, only values that prove themselves through history. By saying that there are values beyond history, one grounds them on belief instead of reason (because no one can beyond human historical experience into a transcendent, timeless vision of eternal truth). And then you do not make philosophy, that is to say, scientific philosophy, but you masquerade as a philosopher. 

The core value of the West is freedom. The West exports this value everywhere, but, of course, together with all its evils. Because the West conquers all other civilizations, it imposes the consciousness and value of freedom everywhere. People all over the world thus learn slowly, indeed, constrained by circumstances, to recognize their freedom and demand it whenever necessary. 

The truth is, thus, in this type of Hegelian philosophy, not at all the result of correspondence between mind and the reality beyond mind but between mind and history. But again, it is not as if mind lay on the one side and history on the other side. Mind is an organic part of history, it cannot separate itself from that history, and this transforms the concept of truth as correspondence. 

If we think of that correspondence as one between two separate entities, then we must think of it in terms of comparison: something corresponds to or with something else if we can establish similarities. But can you compare (in the usual sense of this word) yourself as you are today with yourself as you were in your childhood? Of course not, because who you were in the past is no longer there, except in your memory.

But your memory is part of who you are today. Thus, who you were in the past is given to you through who you are today. And is it necessary to recall how distortingly our memory acts? You as a child and you as a mature person exist, paradoxically, simultaneously.

But when you compare yourself with who you were, you do this in order not to simply see similarities but in order to see how initial features in your childhood developed into the traits of your mature being. You select the meaningful aspects of your memories, those that help you understand yourself. 

In the same way in which we cannot go beyond ourselves to compare ourselves with the child who we were but make this comparison from the self-awareness of our mature age, we cannot go beyond our present-day condition to compare it to the past of who we and nature, in general were, as culture, society or world. Everything is illuminated by our present-day self-awareness and memory, and, therefore, also necessarily shaped by this memory. 

In the same way in which it is meaningless to ask ourselves how we arrived in the world – if we put this question taking into account exclusively our memory because in that memory we cannot see anywhere how we have been created – it is also meaningless to ask about the origin of ourselves and the world by trying to answer it from outside as if we could witness the moment when God created the world with all its laws and ways of functioning. 

When we speak about the past of the world, however far we go back into history, we can deal with no other content than that which is a product of our present-day self-awareness. Although it might sound paradoxical, to see how true this idea is, it is enough to think that people a few thousand years ago thought entirely differently about how the world came into existence and developed. And perhaps no one expects to see people a few thousand years in the future think of the world in the same way we do today. 

This is why the question of whether space is objective or subjective is also meaningless. We cannot go beyond our spatial condition to see what is true and not, to check the answers. What it is possible to do is only to explain the past as the source for our way today of understanding spatiality. 

But then again, our consciousness is not simply personal. On the contrary, according to the history from which we come, this consciousness has proved to be God’s consciousness itself because we live today in the framework created by the seeds of Christianity. Those seeds have been confirmed through history, and therefore the identity between the human mind and the cosmic consciousness of God can also be accepted. 

Then, what we necessarily think about the past can now be seen as God’s way of understanding the world, but not from outside the world, in His absolute mystery, but from within the world. Absolute knowledge, of which Hegel speaks so much, is then the human knowledge that understands itself in the present by having understood its past. To this human knowledge, God’s own knowledge (the Idea) evolved, doing so together with the world. And this evolved knowledge is Spirit. 

You can read here the first part of this article.

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