Going somewhere?, the pervasiveness of teleology in history and the 18th century great experiment to eliminate it
Grayson, Timothy Demkiw.
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The writing of history is based on a teleological foundation. In the eighteenth-century, Voltaire and Hume used history to demolish the ' Ancien Regime'. Their methodology was a plain language description of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the aristocracy and the Church. Post-Enlightenment historians assumed that the plain language description still functioned in a purposeful way. Unfortunately the purpose and use of historical description, and the way historians used it after the Enlightenment was based on teleological assumptions about language, politics, culture, and society which few practising historians could ever begin to defend. These gratuitous and anti-theoretical assumptions are a teleological fallacy that threatens to compromise the integrity of contemporary historical studies. Even as Rationalism developed in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it did not replace the old irrational system based on Christian faith. In the post-Enlightenment the teleological "goal" changes from a static extrinsic objective to a process-based intrinsic ideal. Teleology now inheres within the plain language descriptive methodology as part of a building process. Six representative, influential philosopher-historians from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are studied and analyzed: Voltaire, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Ranke. In their work is the redevelopment and appropriation of teleology from telic goal to methodological purpose. Teleology in some form is an essential feature of the writing and understanding of history. Without a teleological framework there is no logical way to propose or understand a meaning in history. But it is where the telos resides that will determines the kind of history we produce and wherefrom its value is derived.