History and Archaeology sciences looked at #1 Encyclopedism and enlightenment

Archaeology, also spelled archeology, may be considered a very recent or relatively new sciences. We are confronted with the past and may have already the science or study of ‘history’. That study is already very old and aimed at providing an overall explanation of the process of history. In the philosophy of history one tries to look at the actions that together make up the human past. Lots of that past may be hidden and has to be uncovered. As scholars we want to investigate not only the events that happened and how they where recorded, but also would love to see what the artefacts of the past can tell us, the elements of which we can come to know how people lived and what for life they had.

Polybius, statue in Vienna.

Greek statesman and historian who wrote of the rise of Rome to world prominence. Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed constitution or the separation of powers in government, which was influential on Montesquieu‘s The Spirit of the Laws and the framers of the United States Constitution.

“All historians,” according to the Greek historian of the Hellenistic period Polybius, noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail, have insisted that the soundest education and training for political activity is the study of history, and that the surest and indeed the only way to learn about mankind is looking at the ancient times, the evolution of man and to see how certain patters repeat over and over again, often because people did not know enough the previous history. For his work he did a lot of research, travelling around the empire and interviewing veterans to clarify details of the events he was recording and he was similarly given access to archival material making it possible to build up some factual and possibly also an objective study. Polybius’s Histories is also useful in analysing the different Hellenistic versions of history and of use as a credible illustration of actual events during the Hellenistic period.

Bossuet, detail of an oil painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1698; in the Uffizi, Florence

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, 17th century French bishop and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. He has been considered by many to be one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist.

The French bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossut, one of the the most eloquent and influential spokesman for the rights of the French church against papal authority, wrote a work of theology and philosophy “Discours sur l’histoire universelle” (Speech of Universal History or Discourse on Universal History – 1681) in which he looked at the past with the conviction that everything what happens in the world fits a Plan of a Higher Supreme Being.

In the eyes of Bossuet, to grasp and understand the great procession of empires and religions was

“to comprehend in one’s mind all that is great in human affairs and have the key to the history of the universe.”

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the beginning of mankind man has gone against the Will of God and has received the approval of God to rule and control the world. That he cannot make much of it is been proven by the many social and political systems the world had to see passing and making the rise and fall of states and creeds depending in the end upon the secret orders of Providence according Bossuet. The secret orders of Providence being the source of that manifest historical justice and retribution to which, on nearly every page, the annals of the past bore clear and unmistakable witness. Bossuet’s vast survey was, in fact, the last major contribution to its genre. Although it made a considerable impression when it was first published, it appeared just before the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton effected a massive transformation of the European outlook, and the book’s impact was short-lived.

We can see that the development of historical speculation in the 18th century was generally marked by a tendency to reject theological and providential interpretations in favour of an approach more closely aligned, in method and aim, to that adopted by natural scientists in their investigations of the physical world.

For many Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinkers, the project of establishing a science of history and society, comprising hypotheses and laws of an explanatory power analogous to that attained by theories in the physical sciences, acquired an almost obsessive importance.

Figures such as Étienne Bonnot de Condillac and the marquis de Condorcet in the 18th century and Henri de Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and the English historian, the author of an unfinished History of Civilization, Henry Thomas Buckle in the 19th century all believed that it was feasible to apply scientific procedures to the study of human development.

But equally — though in widely different ways — they were deeply concerned with practical objects and committed to changing existing institutions and ways of life. To these thinkers, theory was complementary to practice; knowledge was power.

Henry Thomas Buckle at the age of 24.

Buckle also was convinced that the metaphysical dogma of free will rests on an erroneous belief in the infallibility of consciousness, and that it is proved by science, and especially by statistics, that human actions are governed by laws as fixed and regular as those that rule in the physical world. That climate, soil, food, and the aspects of nature are the primary causes of intellectual progress: the first three indirectly, through determining the accumulation and distribution of wealth, and the last by directly influencing the accumulation and distribution of thought, the imagination being stimulated and the understanding subdued when the phenomena of the external world are sublime and terrible, the understanding being emboldened and the imagination curbed when they are small and feeble.

Therefore it is not bad to have a closer look at the regions, their weather conditions and how people tried to cope with it. Geologists, archaeologist, anthropologists and culture morphologists may come in the picture here.

The actions of individuals are greatly affected by their moral feelings and passions; but also by their reaction on conditions of metrological, social, political and economical developments. As bible scholars we try to enter imaginatively into the spirit of past ages, re-creating the outlooks and attitudes that informed them as opposed to seeking to impose upon them inappropriate or falsifying interpretations — “pseudomyths” — that derived from the cultural ethos of his own time.

We try to view human actions and achievements from a standpoint that takes proper account of “time, place and national character” — in other words, cultural milieu and the inevitable limits imposed by historical situation and circumstance. Surroundings, and places where humans work to their individual strengths to then come together as a group to solve problems or to come to find out ways for living together are important factors we want to examine to come to know a people and to understand their way of behaviour better.

It is by searching for the original living pastures, mapping it, and trying to find out how the people lived and behaved at those ancient times we can form a better picture of their way of thinking, their social, economical, political and religious life. We are also convinced that by knowing the previous and present other cultures better may contribute to a better world-view and better relations with those around us.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, oil painting by Jakob von Schlesinger, c. 1825; in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher who developed a dialectical scheme that emphasized the progress of history and of ideas from thesis to antithesis and thence to a synthesis.

The productive relations in which people stand to one another, resulting in such phenomena as the division of labour and the appearance of economically determined classes, were the factors fundamental to historical movement.  The “philosophy of spirit” of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel made its appearance upon the intellectual scene contemporaneously with Saint-Simonian and Comtean positivism, rivalling the latter in scope and influence and bringing with it its own highly distinctive theory of historical evolution and change. What he termed the superstructure of society—which covered such things as political institutions and systems of law, ethics, and religion—was in the last analysis dependent upon the shape taken by the “material production” and the “material intercourse” of human beings in their struggle to master nature:

“it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

Hence, the inner dynamic of history was held to lie in conflicts arising from changes in the means of production and occurring when modes of social organization and control, adapted to the development of the productive forces at one stage, became impediments to it at another; they were to be resolved, furthermore, not by abstract thought but by concrete action. Thus, the Hegelian conception of spirit as involved in a relentless struggle with itself and with what it had created underwent a revolutionary transformation, explosive in its implications.

People reacting to what came unto them where influenced in their way of thinking and their way of expressing themselves. That what they made as such can give an idea how they felt and what got their interest.

The scientific study of the material remains of past human life and activities is therefore of much interest to us, because all those artefacts one can find can give a better picture of the people and their culture at that certain time they lived.

The archaeology study wants to look as far back in history as possible, to include human artifacts from the very earliest stone tools to the man-made objects that are buried or thrown away in the present day: everything made by human beings — from simple tools to complex machines, from the earliest houses and temples and tombs to palaces, cathedrals, and pyramids.

Archaeology coming from the Greek archaia (“ancient things”) and logos (“theory” or “science”) wants to be an art of investigation, looking at those places where there can be found a principal source of knowledge of prehistoric, ancient, and extinct culture.

Many aspects of civilisations left by men who lived thousands of years ago have been recovered carefully and laboriously as archaeologists have delved beneath the surface of the earth. They have excavated at hundreds of sites that through the ages seemed to be nothing more than barren hills, but modern man has found that often these “tells,” as they are called, are actually the ruins of past civilisations.

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Preceding articles

Archaeology and the Bible researcher 1/4 Knowing what happened in previous times

Archaeology and the Bible researcher 2/4

Archaeology and the Bible researcher 3/4

Archaeology and the Bible researcher 4/4

To be continued with

History and Archaeology sciences looked at #2 Co-operative of excavators, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and culture morphologists

History and Archaeology sciences looked at #3 Nature of archaeological work

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  6. Kulturmorphologie (“Culture Morphology”)
  7. Croce between Hughes & White
  8. Why Philosophy needs History Now!
  9. Histories We Repeat
  10. Fact or Fiction?
  11. Kenneth Roberts in Scholarly Work: John Frederick on Roberts as a Novelist and Historian
  12. Critique of Historical Relativism
  13. History & the Lack of Neutrality
  14. Agency, Ontology, and Archaeology of the Recent Past
  15. Practice and Process in Archaeology
  16. An Archaeology of Care: Toward a Definition
  17. We Have Never Been Presentist: On Regimes of Historicity
  18. Notes Towards a Theory of Modernity, and Other Things
  19. Ideal Pragmatism, or Pragmatic Idealism
  20. Historicism Against Liberalism
  21. Historical Realism
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  27. Doing a history PhD with major depressive disorder
  28. Mainstram meda versus scholary articles
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  30. Week 3 – Ethics Questions
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  32. On History
  33. Polybius on the Genera of Political Order
  34. Democratia et Popularis
  35. On Election Night: Polybius’ Cycle of Governments
  36. The Cave and the Light
  37. Seeing the World
  38. Revelation of the Sovereign God

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2 thoughts on “History and Archaeology sciences looked at #1 Encyclopedism and enlightenment

  1. Pingback: History and Archaeology sciences looked at #2 Co-operative of excavators, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and culture morphologists | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

  2. Pingback: History and Archaeology sciences looked at #3 Nature of archaeological work #1 | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

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