Dr. Ali Shariati
Philosophy of History
Some believe history to be useless. One of the people who did not believe in history was Napoleon. He said: "History is no more than lies which are accepted by all.
There are some famous people who looked at history as an art and not a science. One believed that history is not an objective reality like a mountain, nature, a sea, a man, a society or life itself but it is a poem. The poem is not an outdated reality which the poet discovers. Rather, the poet uses different substances and creates a poem. He invents it and creates that which had not existed. Using the same argument, history is the poem that a historian sings and not an external reality which he discovers. One historian sings it in one way and another in another. In this way, everyone sings it as he wishes it sung or as he is able to sing.
A contemporary Frenchman says the same thing but with more seriousness: "History is like a mountain for which I like everyone else make my own blocks of stone in order to construct the design that I myself have. That is, I enter history and select anything and any shape which I wish, cut and change it and then use the selected pieces in the construction of an historical building where I myself am the designer, builder and architect.
For example, the history of the French Revolution is not a reality that historians discover and then express. The historian creates it. It is the aforementioned mountain that an historian starts to build according to his own tastes, beliefs, needs and creative ability by selecting the blocks of stone for the construction of the history he wishes to have been.
But the philosophy of history does not believe that history is separate accidents of the past, accidents made by personalities, the powerful, military leaders, heroes and conquerors. It does not see history as material, stored in the past that a writer select according to his own needs and tastes.
History is the continuous and united process which moves and grows from the beginning of the life of humanity according to the deterministic scientific law of cause and effect. It coercively passes through different stages and encounters determined points which can be foreseen. Finally, it certainly and of necessity reaches its goals which were pre-determined by the law of the movement of history.
Just as a plant or a chicken grows up or like the earth moves within a certain period of time, so history is a living, natural reality. Thus, according to scientific laws and the principles of cause and effect, it has its own movement and evolution. Consequently, it is not a tool to be made use of by this or that person. It is also not an illogical or accidental process without having any goal.
As the flow of history is a scientific one, if I found myself in the middle of this flow, if I accurately discover the laws of movement of history, I can foresee the destiny of any society or other societies three hundred years from now. It is just like meteorology whereby knowing the laws of the atmosphere, which are logical laws of cause and effect, one can accurately foresee the changes of weather the rising and falling of temperatures, the possibility of rain, the coming of clouds, the occurrence of a storm and the blowing of winds.
Therefore, if we discover the flow of the movement of history, we can guess what will happen in the future. A person who adheres to Ws principle, who believes in a philosophy of history or better yet, a science of history, believes that history is a scientific reality and a movement which flows according to fixed scientific laws.
Therefore, the destiny of humanity throughout the ages is not accidental. It is not made by persons nor does it stand, move, incline or progress according to the desires of Ws or that person. It moves according to coercive, existing scientific laws which exist in the very fabric of society and time. This movement which occurs according to scientific law in society is called 'history'.
Therefore, history is a continuous, deterministic flow which moves according to certain strict laws. This is to believe in the philosophy of history.
But how does it move? According to which scientific laws? How can they be foreseen? Which direction does it take? The answer to these questions creates the special philosophy of history of each school of thought. Every school of thought replies to these according to its own views. As the 'science of history' has not as yet been discovered or has not, as yet, been completely recognized and accepted by all, we design it in an ideological school as the 'philosophy of history' and not as a proven, confirmed and fixed science.
Ideologies includes both a belief and the knowing of it. It is to have a special attitude and consciousness which a person has in relation to himself, his class position, social base, national situation, world and historic destiny as well as the destiny of one's own society which one is dependent upon. According to one's ideology, one explains the above points and on that basis one finds one's own particular responsibilities, commitments, directions, solutions, desires, positions and judgments. Consequently, he adheres to a special behavior and ethical system of values. That is, it is according to the world view and fundamental type of sociology, philosophical anthropology and philosophy of history that a person has, his beliefs about life, the relationship to 'self' with others and with the world.
It makes it clear how one must live, what one must do, what type of society must be made, how an ideal social system is created, what the responsibilities and commitments of an individual to one's society are, what types of conflicts, relationships, ideas, needs, beliefs, negative or positive values, collective behavior, scales of good and evil, social and humanitarian identity must be created and established.
Therefore, ideology is a belief system that interprets the social, rational and class orientation of a human being as well as one's system of values, social order, form of living, ideal individual, social situation and human life in all its various dimensions. It answers the questions: What are you like? What do you do? What must you do? What must be?
The various aspects of infrastructure (i.e. world view) and supra-structure (philosophical anthropology, sociology and philosophy of history forming an ideology) find meaning, can be understood and turned into life and movement in a school, when two points are made clear: Its views on the ideal city and the ideal human being.
The Ideal Society (Utopia)
Utopia is the ideal society that one conceives of in one's own mind, desires and struggles for so that human society take that form. All philosophies, religions and human beings have a different type of utopia in their minds. Paradise is the utopia or ideal society in the mind of a religious man. Plato's utopia was the ideal city for the aristocratic Greeks and intellectuals of his age. The City of God of St. Augustine, The Sacred City of Jean Isolah and the Society of Universal Justice of the Shitites, at the end of time, are all ideal societies.
In many of the ancient books, ideal cities such as philosophy of Jabalwa and Jabalsa have been described cities with idealistic people, government, religion, political organization, social classes, ethics, economics, social fundamentals, thought and culture. Therefore, contrary to what is superficially stated, the creation of utopias is the result of a need of every idealist for goal-oriented person. All of this shows that the desire to have a higher form of society exists both in the primordial nature of each and every human being as well as in the consciousness of each society. It is the manifestation of the evolving spirit of each human being.
This 'higher form of society' in a school of thought is not an imaginary or fictitious society but an ideal society which is formed from the ideology of that school of thought. This is because the believers of each school of thought believe in a human, free and ideal way of life and not only believe in the possibility of such a life and its certainty, but struggle to create it.
The desired, the ideal or higher form of society is the ideal mental image of that society which an individual or group who believe in that school of thought have about it and they try to change human society for that type of society.
Essentially, the existence of an imaginary society proves that the human being is always moving from the 'present situation' to a more 'desirable situation', whether it be imaginary, scientific, the utopia of Plato or the classless society of Marx. But the desirable society in a school of thought is a scientific and potentially objective society which is in harmony with the spirit and orientation of that school of thought, based upon its world view and is in accordance with its ultimate goal and the philosophy of life in that school.
The ideal human being is motivated by a desire as to what he 'should be' and 'must become'. It was this person that the mystics sought to become. The universal prototype (Enson-e-Kamel) is clearly referred to in our treatises, particularly the ones on philosophy and illumination. It is the person who has reached the highest level that a human being can reach and evolve towards . It is a person who has released the 'self' from the bond of 1ust' and 'passion' and has soared as a human being.
Fascism speaks of a 'superman'. Nietzsche speaks about the man who becomes the heir of the gods. Hegel, in his philosophy of history, which is based upon his special idealism, foresees a future in which the 'absolute ideal', after passing the evolutionary stages of self-awareness of the highest form of man, reaches 'absolute awareness' and in this stage, the universal prototype.
The ethical socialism of the 1 9th century in Germany, which the majority of Hegel's students believed in, was trying to attain the human being of a 'sound disposition', 'the human being who is human', whose talents have progressed freely and soundly by struggling against both bourgeoisie 'this worldliness' and pious 'other worldliness' for both of these make a person defective, metamorphosis and alienated from the truth of 'self' and one's primordial nature.
Even Marxism, which is based on 'materialism' and as our intellectuals explain it, 'the human being' to them is an economic animal, speaks about 'a total human being'. This person is one who is total, perfect and complete. He has not become imperfect, paralyzed, cut into pieces or alienated. He has not been made insane by the system or been metamorphosized. He does not suffer from a sense of self-loss. He does not worship wealth. He is not one-dimensional. He is neither a colonizer nor colonized. He is neither a master nor a slave. He is not a seeker after lusts, a monk or an ascetic. He is not a worker who is without work because of the existence of reactionary and deviated elements, economic conditions, class system and inhumane working conditions.
Therefore, all schools of thought, whether materialistic or mystic, have a mental concept of a 'perfect type', a total person, an ideal prototype of humanity. Otherwise, a social philosophy, an ethical school of thought and a path to follow in one's life is meaningless because it lacks orientation.
A human model is a model which gives direction and causes us to move. It requires that both our hands and our thoughts be put to use in seeking or reaching towards that model.
The model can be used as a scale of life, an ethics, a means of training and teaching human beings. It is not possible to discipline human beings without recognizing the universal prototype and without having a universal prototype for the human race. We must know the potential human being in order to create that person by means of a developed, accurate and scientific technique or method.
Discipline means 'becoming a human being' and bringing one near to the universal prototype. If we ask those who are engaged in the training of the human being what is intended for each person to become, they cannot answer that such a problem is of no concern because they intend to change the present position of the human being. Therefore, the universal prototype must be clear and it be made known what type of person it is.
They cannot argue: "We are experts and are only responsible for their training and teaching. The universal prototype does not concern us. It is up to philosophy and religion to make it clear." Such training and teaching is similar to a carpenter who has gathered a hundred pieces of equipment and various kinds of wood and is expertly working on those but when you ask him what he is working on, he answers: "I have no idea. I am a realist. I am not an idealist. I just cut wood but I have no idea what it is for and who will use it."
We must consider the point that the system of human values is determined by the universal prototype who is in our thoughts and whom we believe in as a model human being, a symbolic model, the exalted human being that we must be and yet are not. The main aim and effort of training and teaching is to make human beings grow more similar to that model generation by generation. Therefore, each school of thought must present its ideal image of the universal prototype, otherwise all its efforts are in vain and its movement, without aim.
It must be noted here that a universal prototype or society which moves towards exalted symbols, ideal and exemplary models always destroys fixed moulds and standards upon its way. The universal prototype individual or society is the attractive force which identifies the orientation of a movement but does not identify the final or fixed form.
It is the factor of movement which negates the immobile and prohibiting factors. Fixed standards put the human being in pre-constructed forms and dimensions. It moulds the person as it wants while seeking the ideal it releases an individual from these forms and takes that person out of the stagnancy of each course of action and system. It moves the person in the streams of time towards the ocean and/or absolute eternity.
Therefore, as I mentioned at the beginning of my lecture, just as I do not believe in fixed and pre-constructed moulds, similarly I do not believe in non-engagement, non-commitment and irresponsibility. Instead of release or limitations, I believe the orientation must be selected not in its 'form of being' nor 'in being without form' but rather as an eternal evolutionary becoming, an eternal movement and migration not to reach a point but to orient towards a direction.
Therefore, a design for a school of thought consists of an infrastructure
of a world view and a supra-structure of a philosophy in regard to the
human being, society and a philosophy of history (the principal pillars)
forming one's ideology, developing the ideal society and the ideal human