The meaning of the story
The problem of the meaning of the story
In the past, social philosophy has talked a lot about the meaning and purpose of human history. The idea behind this reasoning seemed obvious: mankind exists not in vain, it has a specific purpose, and, therefore, its evolution has a certain meaning. However, as a more thorough analysis shows, it is difficult to understand what exactly was meant by the meaning of history.
The concept of meaning, in itself extremely vague, in the application to history becomes something directly elusive. The concept of the meaning of history defines all its other common problems. The ambiguity or artificiality of the solution of the question of the meaning of history makes answers to other general questions as equally unclear or far-fetched, and in particular to the question of those common values guided by society at a particular period of its development.
Before turning to the analysis of judgments about the meaning of history, it is necessary to clarify the very concept of meaning. Obviously, the word meaning many of its meanings are not completely clear. The two most common meanings of meaning can be called linguistic and teleological.
In linguistic meaning, meaning is the content that stands behind the linguistic expression. In teleological meaning, meaning is a characteristic of the activity that serves the purpose. It makes sense to any action that promotes progress towards the goal, and there is no meaning to the action that does not lead to this goal and all the more prevents it from reaching it. The goal can be realized by the subject of activity (individual or collective), but can also remain unconscious to him. For example, the meaning of the artist's work is to create pictures; if none of the works started the artist does not bring to the end, then his activity does not make sense, in any case, has no clear meaning.
The teleological meaning implies a design, or a goal. Reasoning about the meaning of an activity should always contain a direct or indirect indication of the goal pursued by the given activity and without which the latter would be empty or meaningless.
When we speak of the "sense of history", we mean precisely the teleological meaning of "meaning", the goal that is facing humanity and which it is able to achieve through its gradual evolution. It is not assumed that the meaning of history is known to mankind or a specific society.
History makes sense only if it has a purpose. If the argument goes about the meaning of human history, we must first of all ask ourselves whether this story has any purpose.
If there is no goal, the evolution of mankind is meaningless. The goal of not only history, but also of any activity is one of the varieties of values. We can therefore say that the meaning of history means its orientation to some values.
In axiology, values are usually divided into internal and external. Internal value is valuable in itself. External value has something that can serve as a means to achieve some internal value. Internal values are sometimes called absolute, external - relative, or instrumental.
For example, pleasure is positively valuable in itself, pain and suffering are negatively valuable in themselves. Money is not valuable in itself, but only as a sufficient universal means of obtaining some internally valuable things.
The division of values into internal and external is, of course, relative and largely depends on the context. For example, truth, as is commonly believed, is valuable in itself, but at the same time it can prove to be a means to achieve other values.
The division of values into internal and external is fundamentally important when discussing the problem of the meaning of history. Another important division of values (the goals that human history faces) is to divide them into objective and subjective.
Objective values are achieved regardless of the plans and intentions of a person, his activity or inactivity, they are realized not because of a person, but because of the course of things that does not depend on him. Subjective values are those events or situations whose offensive a person desires, for which he actively acts and which can not be realized at all, if a person does not show, say, sufficient perseverance. Objective values can be called predefined, subjective - undefined.
For example, a warm summer with abundant rains is an objective positive value for a vegetable grower; regularly working throughout the season irrigation system - a subjective value for him.
Connecting together the division of values into internal and external, on the one hand, and to objective and subjective - on the other, we get four possible positions in the question of the meaning of history:
• History is endowed with meaning, because it is a means to achieve certain values (such as, for example, freedom, all-round development of a person, his well-being, etc.), the realization of which is the result of historical development and does not depend on the plans of individual people and their groups, from their understanding of history and from their conscious activity;
• History has meaning, because it is valuable in itself, at every moment of its existence, and this intrinsic value of history is completely independent of people and their groups that can understand the meaning and value of history, but may not understand them;
• History makes sense as a means of achieving those ideals that humanity itself has developed and that it seeks to gradually realize in the course of its activities;
• History has a meaning, because it is positively valuable in itself, and this value is given to it not from outside but by the people who live in history, make it and receive satisfaction from the very process of life.
About the first two of these positions, we can say that history is endowed with a meaning that is independent of either man or humanity in general. The course of history is predetermined, its value as a means or in itself exists independently of any plans or actions of people.
According to the last two positions, the person himself gives history a meaning, or making it a means of achieving some of his ideals, or considering the process itself as a value in itself.
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