Fate and Historical Existence

The Monist 53 (1):14-39 (1969)
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I. The word ‘history’ and its derivatives are used in many different senses among modern philosophers, theologians, and historians. While we need not rehearse here the various meanings of the word in current use, it will serve our purpose to call attention to a very general distinction which seems quite essential to any attempt to do so. Some meanings of ‘history’ or ‘historical’ refer to an actual course of events as they occur or are enacted. Other meanings refer to the recollection, the piecing together, the reconstruction and interpretation of such a course of events after it has occurred, pre-eminently through the scholarly craft of the historian. Admittedly, even this innocent sounding distinction is fraught with difficulties. It is not as though there were an independent access to past events which could dispense with the historian’s methods. But to every event there is one relationship that requires no access at all: that of its participants, who enact it and are directly affected by it. They are in the event and it, so to speak, is in them. Indeed, though there are nonhuman factors in any event, it is the transaction of human participants which makes the event historical, which, in fact, constitutes the historical event.



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