Being and The Teleology of History

“Sir Thomas More (1527) by Hans Holbein the Younger” Description and image from Wikipedia. I claim no copyright.

Jean Baudrillard wrote:

The end of history is, alas, also the end of the dustbins of history. There are no longer any dustbins for disposing of old ideologies, old regimes, old values. Where are we going to throw Marxism, which actually invented the dustbins of history? (Yet there is some justice here since the very people who invented them have fallen in.) Conclusion: if there are no more dustbins of history, this is because History itself has become a dustbin. It has become its own dustbin, just as the planet itself is becoming its own dustbin.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that the concept of an “end” of history is sometimes used to refer to the end of numerical calendar dates. This arguably does not make sense.

Hegel was the one who initially used the term. However, Hegel uses the term in a more teleological sense. Hegel saw the advent in human history as continually leading to an “absolute.”

Fukuyama uses it in the same sense as the teleological end of history — a liberal capitalistic society. Most say he was wrong. He even admits he may have been wrong. Arguably there is no necessary or efficient tendency for global entities and superpowers to be liberal in their politics — according to Fukuyama.

On the other hand, Karl Marx wrote, “[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Perhaps he was replying to the Hegelian idea that “[h]istory, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time.”

Arguably responding to Hegel, Foucault wrote:

“The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly, as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.”

Referring to Heidegger, and in the line with Foucault, Adorno wrote:

“Being, in whose name Heidegger’s philosophy increasingly concentrates itself, is for him — as a pure self-presentation to passive consciousness — just as immediate, just as independent of the mediations of the subject as the facts and the sensory data are for the positivists. In both philosophical movements thinking becomes a necessary evil and is broadly discredited.”

Regarding Heidegger, it certainly seems immediately relevant that for Heidegger’s predecessor Husserl there was a lot of emphasis on objects in the world being “given” a sense of immediacy. However, for Heidegger, where the concept of being has to do with what makes objects and people what they ontologically are, there is a capacity we have for understanding what objects are. But the ontological perspective does not automatically grasp at what makes objects what they are. This is the case even if we can often appreciate easily what they are in a practical sense. Thus, Adorno’s characterization of Heidegger is likely not accurate.

© Charles Edward Andrew Lincoln IV

Charles Edward Andrew Lincoln IV



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Charles Lincon

Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, Hegelian dialectics, Attic Greek, masters University of Amsterdam.