Weakening and Strengthening History


Abstract
Despite suggestions that the end of metaphysics leaves us with nothing but history, essential questions about the place of history in a post-metaphysical culture have been neglected. In one sense history "weakens" as the scope for "realism" or a teleological master narrative fall away. But it invites overreaction to suggest that history becomes a "process of weakening" insofar as things have come to be as they are not as the resultants of full, meaningful origins, but only through the "dread accident" of the historical process. The world that has resulted from history is the only one we have, and it weighs on us; in that sense history does not weaken but strengthens. Still, the historical process enveloping us is not Hegelian and necessary but weak and contingent, its outcomes subject to further contest. Conversely, although truth is weak, finite, and provisional, it is not merely consensual or relative precisely because it is historical. To grasp the sense it which history both weakens and strengthens enables us to grasp the scope for learning more deeply from our historical experience. A fuller range of historical questions about modernity would enable us better to understand the ongoing dangers and possibilities of modern politics
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