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S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.


Scholium I. The assertion of whether history is teleological is properly a genealogy of the Will; historical evolution is a metaphysical appraisal of the freedom or bondage of the Will. A teleology of history is only possible if every agent acts in accordance with a Universal Will. Western philosophy holds that the question of the freedom of the individual Will is different from the question of whether each agent is deferential to a universal of the same genus. It must thus be that Soul exists in History, since Time exists in the same. Aristotelian teleology is a philosophy of Time, which is also a theory of predictable and unpredictable change. The Aristotelian liberates Time from History by making it a physical – as opposed to cultural – referent. However, the spontaneous and infinite nature of Desire in Aristotle’s corpus makes it difficult to attribute teleology to History, because not all action is Will, and Desire (as opposed to Will) is infinite and non-deterministic. A proper metaphysical understanding of history must begin by admitting the interdigitation of the subject of history (as it is advanced by its practitioners) and the metaphysics of the subject. The determination of the tenability of a teleological philosophy of history is thus a question both of historiography (as practiced by such as Herodotus, Virgil, Plutarch, Livy, Gibbon, and Tacitus) and the philosophy of history (as practiced by Aristotle, Plato, Hegel, Kant, and others). Dialecticism and transcendental rationalism are taken to be indispensable to Hegel’s historiography, but these qualities are by no means unique to it. It is not widely recognized that Hegel establishes a teleology of the moral development of history in Philosophy of Right parts 6, 344, 347 and throughout Part 1 of the Phenomenology of Spirit, in which progressive self-realization of the geist through the coincidentia oppositorum is established. More classic versions of the theory of zeitgeist and the Universal Spirit are established throughout the Philosophy of History (161; 174; 178-179; 258; 286-287; 342-345). Marx and Engels make this dialecticism material (Das Capital 10-11; 377-378), and Kant explores the general notion of zeitgeist as an aesthetic notion orientated in history in his Critique of Judgment (50). Historians, however, are eschewed from this tradition, account of the reticence of philosophy to accept the legitimacy of practitioner-based epistemologies. Book 1 of Herodotus’ Histories explicitly explores the progress of dialectical history, as does the Introduction to Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. In the Eclogues, Virgil imputes to Rome a teleological perfection ad aeternam (14-15), as does the character of Aeneas in the flight from Troy (Book 8, 306-334).

Scholium II. Crucially, historians mention the philosophical concept of Will in history after philosophers sought a teleological theory of historical progress. The Aristotelian treatment of the Will throughout history is not found in any of his works on history or ethics, but his Organon (Physics, Book 4, 223-242; Metaphysics, Book 12, Chapter 8). Hegel’s History is a result of a reading of Aristotle through the lens of Leibnitz and Kant on historicality. The Platonic treatment of the same draws from pre-Socratic theories of intentionality and is rationalistic and not teleological. Plato never discusses a formalism for time that would permit a systematic treatment of history. This atemporality is discussed in the context of the history of states in Book 8 of the Republic, Statesman (587-590), Book 6 of the Laws (662-666), and briefly in the Timaeus (444-445). Plato’s view of history – if he can be said to possess a consistent one – is a chronology of statecraft, and views as a human construct. To inquire of the Platonist what existed temporally before the genesis of the State is a categorical error. Aristotle’s view of History, which is adopted by later theorists, recognizes the inability of the Platonic construct to account for understandable change in Nature. A key Aristotelian (and later Hegelian) insight is to view physical and political history as obedient of the same rules of logic that govern conventional dialectic – namely, that situation in time and space are same for societies, plants, stars, and men. Each is subject to generation and corruption but – in character or in stature – to a cognizable some other element of the Will (namely the passions) supervenes.

Scholium III. Metaphysicians of History should not deem the latter to possess teleology unless: (1). The Will is not free; (2). The Will of each man is in deference to a Universal Will. The Aristotelian tradition recognizes ill as an aspect of the soul in accordance with either reason or passion. The Summa Theologica is the most comprehensive exposition of this position, far exceeding the scope of moral-norm historicality presented in either the Confessions of Augustine (Part 5 of Book 7) or Chapter 2 of the Nicomachean Ethics (357-359), on which the treatment in the Confessions is . Kant’s signature defenses of freedom of the Will are intimately entangled with narratives about history; the future cannot possess teleological agency not because the past failed to, but because the human himself is not subject to the laws of history in the same manner as matter is bound to obey physical laws. The human is instead condemned to freedom (Critique of Pure Reason 164-171, 236; Metaphysics of Morals 280; Critique of Practical Reason 304-314; Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals 390-391, in obvious response to Section 8 Hume’s Human Understanding). It is not reasonable in this paradigm to reconcile freedom of Will with a denial of the indeterminacy of either physical or political futures. Scions of Aristotle and Plato both argue that the Will cannot be free (De Rerum Natura (Book 2); Plotinus Ennead 3; Augustine City of God (Book 5)), precisely because history does possess a teleology, either instituted by Nature or by God. Spinoza’s Ethics may be viewed as an attempt to eliminate time in favor of monadological determinism (Ethics 355; 362-353; 365-372; 391-394; 422-424), replacing Lucretian atoms with monads.

Scholium IV. Dialectic (διαλεκτική) is, for Aristotle, a concept relevant to all of metaphysics and science. This interpretation is in clear agreement with the Republic (Books 6-8) and the Parmenides and Philebus, wherein he nature of systematic knowledge (ἐπιστητός) in metaphysics relevant to science is discussed. This term is contrasted to ἐπιστήμη, which indicates an acquaintance with phenomena but not their causes. The former term is found throughout the discussion of dialectic as a process of scientific inquiry in time, and thus with respect to history. Posterior Analytics Book 1 (Chapters 6, 19) and Book 2 (Chapter 5); On the Heavens (Book 1, Chapter 10); Generation and Corruption (Book 1, Chapter 2) are subordinate to the initial claim of the Metaphysics, that “θεὸς ἂν μόνος τοῦτ᾽ ἔχοι γέρας,” ἄνδρα δ᾽ οὐκ ἄξιον μὴ οὐ ζητεῖν τὴν καθ᾽ αὑτὸν ἐπιστήμην. εἰ δὴ λέγουσί τι οἱ ποιηταὶ καὶ πέφυκε φθονεῖν τὸ θεῖον” - or roughly, in my rendering, that "...Simonides saith, the Divine solely has this privilege [of perfect knowledge], and men ought to seek after only the knowing in his ambit; yea, it is right that the Divine is by nature jealous [in protection of pure knowledge].” Book 1 of the Rhetoric (Chapters 2 and 4) renders dialectic as a historical process, wherein the foundations of scientific knowledge (e.g., knowledge of causes) is obtained. Aristotle argues, however, that Will and Time stand in contrast, as Will is a motion of the Soul. Desire is prior in thought to Willing and seeks her object through instinct as well as willful action. This perspective is advanced in Book 1, Chapter 9 of the Physics as well as Book 1, Chapter 1 of the Metaphysics, and Books 5-7 of the History of Animals, which are then quoted by Galen in his Natural Faculties and extensively by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura. Lucretius’ perspective is clearly that Aristotle intends Desire to be prior to Will, with History ruled by the actions of both, each of which is an aspect of the Soul.

Scholium V. Desire is by nature unpredictable and constitutes an aspect of history that cannot be negotiated by dialectic in the sense of progressively discovered epistemology, as Desire is prior in thought to Willing. Desire seeks her object through willful action but also through instinctBecause History is a chronology of both Will and Desire, it is impossible to be governed dialectically unless desires are also arbitrated dialectically. Aristotle borrows from the Gorgias for this purpose and Book 5 of the Republic. The Enchiridon of Epictetus attempts to co-opt Aristotelian Desire under the express aegis of ridding individuals and civilizations of its agonies and excesses, and is an assertion of Reason over Will, much as in the Gorgias. Aquinas interprets Metaphysics as imputing an infinitude to Desire but not to Reason (Summa Theologica, Parts 1-2, Q1, A4; Q2. A1, Reply 3; and Q. 30). Because Desire is infinite and History is finite, it is impossible for History to be a genealogy of Desire alone. But it is also impossible that History be pure teleology (having a goal of universal Reason Desire is by nature non-dialectical and ineradicableHistory is thus the chronology of the infinitude of Desire and Reason, each of which cannot be Will, for the latter is not solely an object of instinct or pleasure. Moral knowledge is knowledge only of the Local Will and is not possible if some Will is Desire and Desire is not a product of teleology.

Scholium VI. For Aristotle, historicality is a matter of philosophical import not for the sake of philosophical anthropology, but for Metaphysics in general. This perspective is best established in Book 1 (Chapter 11) of the Metaphysics, and Book 12, Chapter 1 of the same work, but is present in more nascent forms in the Sophistical Refutations (Chapter 34) and Meteorology, Book 2 (Chapter 4). Aristotle argues that Time is not coequal with change or motion but upon both change and motion. This position is argued in Chapter 6 of Categories, Book 4 of Physics, and Book 2 (Chapter 10) of Generation and Corruption, before being established in Book 5 of the Metaphysics. The present does not exist; it merely separates the past from the future and is thus that which is intermediate between: (1). That which has been; (2). That which is not yet that which has been. The best arguments for this perspective are advanced in Chapter 6 of the Categories (see above) Book 4 of the Physics, but more comprehensively in Chapters 12 and 14 of the same work. Change cannot refer to the present is not divisible. Time passes at a constant rate, but change is sudden, and time is universal, whereas change is local. Chapter 7 of Sense and the Sensible and Chapter 2 of Memory and Reminiscence establish this distinctionFor Aristotle, Time should be related to change in that change and Time cannot transpire separately. Time is related such to Change as Change is to Indiscrete Magnitude, which must be Continuous Magnitude (this point is controversial but can be established by looking to Book 5 (Chapter 6) of the Metaphysics; Chapter 2 of Memory and Reminiscence; Chapter 6 of the Categories; Book 4 (Chapter 10) of the Physics; and Book 2 (Chapters 2 and 3) of Generation and Corruption. Change and Time are both continuous because every Magnitude that is not Discrete must be Continuous. Change is necessarily quantified by Time. Mensuration of Change must have a continuous unit as its basis, which must be Physical, and relates to the Cosmology of the Spheres (On the Heavens (Book 1, Chapters 5-7); Generation and Corruption (Book 1, Chapter 3; Metaphysics Book 9 (Chapter 6), Book 11 (Chapter 10), and Book 1 (Chapter 2) of the Physics). Time is the Continuous Number of change, as opposed to a Discrete Number (Categories (Chapter 6); Physics, Book 4 (Chapter 4); Book 6 (Chapters 1-2); On the Heavens, Book 1 (Chapter 1); and finally, Metaphysics Book 4 (Chapter 4), Book 5 (Chapter 6), Book 8 (Chapter 3), and Book 11 (Chapter 12)). Eternity is not in Time, but all Eternal things possess aspects that are finite. The universality of Time makes it non-cultural (Physics, Book 4). Because Time is Continuous Quantity, it is disposed to be counted, and requires an ensouled Being to count it. As in Aristotelian discussion of Mathematics, Quantity is only such if it is quantified (e.g., realized through counting).

Dr. Jonathan Kenigson, FRSA, PhD - Senior Fellow of Natural Philosophy, Athanasian Hall, Cambridge Limited (UK)

Works Consulted.

All Page Numbers are from Great Books of the Western World ISBN 13: 978-0852295311, ISBN 10: 0852295316 Encyclopedia Britannica 1952 Edition. This item has become increasingly difficult to obtain, so I have included replacement volumes below with the same divisions but different numberings. These should be readily available as of 2022.

Aquinas, T. (2014). Aquinas: Basic Works. Hackett Publishing.

Augustine, S. (2009). The city of God. Hendrickson Publishers.

Augustine, S. (1876). The confessions. Clark.

Barnes, J. (Ed.). (1995). [The complete works]; The complete works of Aristotle. 1 (Vol. 1). Princeton University Press.

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