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Philosophy

Irrational History

We are all quite conditioned to think in terms of history as a process that contains some irreducible rational thread; that while the events, entities and artefacts that constitute history might themselves be chaotic or even (and in many cases) entirely meaningless, that there is a logical truth of history no less than there is or might be a logical history of truth.

The actual truth of history and rationality is much less flattering of either our ideologically-infused analytical paradigms or of any aspirationally-objective and reductively-isolated historical facts. The historical models and frameworks that percolate to ascendancy approximate more closely to retrospective assertions of wish-fulfilment in science or (of) logical narratives and causality than they do to any intrinsic or identifiably unique reasons for the world being what it currently is.

Certainly, we can draw causal threads and logical conclusions from the shadowplay of Machiavellian state machinations or nuances of international diplomacy but this must always be tempered by an acknowledgement that these Big Ticket facts are really chosen quite arbitrarily. The overlaid frameworks and models applied to historical analysis are both overtly and covertly the messengers of and midwifes to the major ideological flavours of any era.

History is much messier and less well-ordered than we might at first choose to believe. The assertion of unproblematically identifiable or relatively unassailable facts and truths of history are themselves the product of a language, a cognitive hyper-extension as culture and technology and a foundationally reflexive psychological aspiration to self-control through the objects, entities and narratives by and through which the self that makes these assertions becomes intelligible.

Notice that the historical conclusions which are drawn become the kernel around which world world-views and ideological justifications are grounded; the more recent the facts, the stronger the sense in which any particular interpretation claims unique or privileged access to insight or truth. This is not simply due to the proliferation of evidence available to more recent historical surveys so much as it is that history has a certain recursively backstitched constitution that provides more ideological clarity in immediate proximity to the diverse historical facts upon which any transient or incomplete belief system such as ideology must be logically grounded. You might even suggest that the relative certainty with which ideological idioms assert their various (and antithetical) viewpoints is not so much a consequence of the recent past as a defensive psychological and narrative mechanism that feels it needs to assert such certainty lest it be swept away by the tide of contrary evidence which must always exist.

I do not doubt that historical facts exist, nor that there exist links and causal threads among them, rather that the linear development and narrative progression is quite radically other than that which we quite naturally accept as conventional or of particular significance or insight. A problem in this space is that the actual and embodied material complexity of historical facts exists at such an order of magnitude and degree of high-dimensionality that the best we are able to produce through the median consensus (and arguments) available to us is a profoundly simp,istic caricature that does much more to satisfy narcissistic and ideological (i.e. political) aspirations to self-validation than it does to ever substantively explaining how and why this human world does what it does and is what it is.

It is quite probable that human history, like life, contains no deeper abstractions or more meaningful content than the self-evident facts of its own presence in the Cosmos. This is not to say that there are not self-organisational principles around which processes self-gravitate as I think there are. It is more that language and all associated cognitive or behavioural grammars are poorly structured as narrow linearities with which we must attempt to holistically and generally or broadly comprehend the diverse and autonomously self-propagating information and energy-processing systems we find ourselves inhabiting.

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