Archive for August, 2012

My theory of history as a sequence of visions, which I described in the previous entry, grew out of an earlier version of the same idea in which I saw every historical era as shaped by a distinctive worldview that sets the tone for its art, technology, and social institutions. I was forced to set that simpler approach aside, however, when I attempted to define the worldviews of the 19th and 20th century more precisely and realized that each one had consisted of several discrete components.

I gradually developed that insight into the concept of a sequence of visions, each one rising and falling on the heels of the one before. As I did, I came to perceive every worldview as the product of a unique partnership between two mature visions, supplemented by a third, slightly younger vision that plays the outsider role and serves as both a source of novelty and a focus of discontent.

Although the specific visions differ from one era to the next, there is always one of each type — scientific, social, and inner experience. This means that taken in concert, they provide the basis for a well-balanced philosophical synthesis which for a time appears capable of explaining all of existence.

Eventually, though, every such synthesis develops cracks. It fails to deliver on its promises, the component visions fall into conflict, and finally it comes apart at the seams — setting off a brief but intense period of intellectual and political turmoil.

And when the turmoil ends and the dust clears, everything has changed. The oldest vision of the three has been discredited and discarded, the second in line has been reformed and modernized, and the outsider vision has cast off its wild, adolescent ways and turned into a mature and dependable leader of society.

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