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1. One definition of historicism calls it “a theory that all sociocultural phenomena are historically determined, that all truths are relative, … and that the student of the past must enter into the mind and attitudes of past periods, accept their point of view, and avoid all intrusion of his own standards or preconceptions” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, p. 1073).

2. J. G. v. Herder* in Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (4 parts, 1784–91) stressed the organic unity of the historical process. He believed in an evolutionary process: every culture building on the basis of the preceding and striving for a higher humanity. History is a result of the interplay of environment and an internal force which can be described as the spirit of man; it is the scene of God's activity, the fulfillment of God's plan, the revelation of God in nature. Man exists solely to advance humanity (Humanität), the ideal which dominated Herder's later life.

3. G. W. F. Hegel* in Vorlesangen über die Philosophie der Geschichte viewed history as a logical process and felt that history could be explained dialectically (thesis, antithesis, synthesis). His philos. of history is part of his philos. of spirit. Historical phenomena are manifestations of the Weltgeist (World Spirit), which is opposed to nature and manifests itself in the spirit of the nation (Volksgeist), which in turn creates the total culture of the nation. The freedom (clue to history) towards which history moves is the freedom of the community as a whole.

4. Ultimately world history supplants Heilsgeschichte* in Herder's and Hegel's speculative philos. of history. C. L. Dilthey,* who rejected positivistic, naturalistic adaptations to history of A. Comte* and others, proclaimed the “autonomy of history,” in which man and the principle of relativity were prominent. E. Troeltsch* in Der Historismus und seine Probleme (pub. 1922) preferred F. W. Nietzsche's* hist. philos. to that of K. H. Marx.* Troeltsch tried to overcome historicism by a formula in which history was to overcome history, by a cultural synthesis of the worthy past with the worthy present, by metaphysics. Historicism, which leaves no room for Heilsgeschichte and converts world history into revelation, has been called “Christian” heresy because it grew out of Christian soil. Progressivistic theories of history have received much criticism in recent yrs., and Heilsgeschichte has been used to overcome the predicament into which historicism brought theologians.

R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, ed. T. M. Knox (Oxford. 1946); H. Butterfield, Christianity and History (London, 1949); H. W. Krumwiede, Glaube und Geschichte in der Theologie Lathers (Göttingen, 1952); E. Fülling, Geschichte als Offenbarung (Berlin, 1956); Theories of History, ed. P. Gardiner (Glencoe, Illinois, 1959); K. R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (London, 1957); W. H. Walsh, An Introduction to Philosophy of History, rev. ed. (London, 1958); Philosophy & History: Essays Presented to Ernst Cassirer, ed. R. Klibansky and H. J. Paton (Oxford, 1936). HFB

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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