Is History Reasonable? Rational Philosophy as a Basis for Historical Interpretation

Author: Sergeichik, E.


A lot is written these days about the loss of faith in human reason. It is, after all, human reason that confronted humanity with such social ideals, and such unrealistic ways of achieving them, that the world is now on the brink of a global catastrophe literally threatening the “end of history”. On the one hand, this nihilistic view of reason, several times manifested in classical philosophy, has discredited all rationally based plans for the reform of society. Yet at the same time it has reinforced in science and philosophy a view of the unconscious as a constructive force, an antithesis to rationality, such that this is nowadays identified with a new form of scientific rationality no longer accommodating the generality of human ideas about life in all its fullness. This “loss of reason” has caused our disorientation in the world, in which rational and irrational, good and evil, truth and falsehood are easily converted back and forth. At the same time, philosophical discussions on the status, functions and limitations of reason have led to a recognition of the historical significance of reason, to the revelation of various forms and historical types of rationality, and to an attempt to formulate a new conception of Reason.
Elena Sergeichik’s book, however, persuades one that we are witnesses not of the “end of history”, but of the end of a dominant style of philosophizing, and of the appearance of a new vision of the world capable of encapsulating the modern situation in all its complexity. The book divides into four chapters. The first two present the basic stages in the development of European historiosophy and give a detailed account of its peripeteia, problems and contradictions. Interlaced with world names in philosophy are those of Russian thinkers whose views, while conditioned by a specifically Russian situation, have emerged as fruitful influences in the development of western philosophy.