Adler On


Everything is this mutable world of changing things has a history. Its history consists of its factual development in reality.

But there is another sense of the word "history" when it is used as the name for a kind of literature. Thus, a person who writes a biography or an autobiography is producing a kind of literature that is written history. In this sense of the word, "history" signifies a type of literature different from empirical science, philosophy, and mathematics.

It is in this second sense of the word "history" that one can speak of historical research, of the methods of history, and of historical data.

The philosophy of history addresses itself to history as it occurs in reality. It is not concerned with the branch of literature that is called history.

Philosophies of history may take opposite points of view about the reality of history, one being that history is cyclical and repeats itself over and over again, the other being that history is progressive and involves nonrepetitive stages.

Recommended Readings on Philosophy, Science, and Religion

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)
Great Ideas from the Great Books (1963)
by Mortimer J. Adler

Revised 15 December 2000