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Book in Focus
A Treatise on the Capitalist Society
24th November 2023
Book in Focus
The Concept of Time and Historical Experience
Recently (September 2023), Cambridge Scholars Publishing published The Concept of Time and Historical Experience by Mihai Popa. The author is a researcher at the "Constantin Rădulescu-Motru" Institute of Philosophy and Psychology of the Romanian Academy. The book discusses the connection between historical becoming and the way we perceive change, as well as the moments of stability in history, the dialectic of this relationship on a subjective level (freedom of action, intersubjective communication), and the role of necessity/law in the manifestation of the historical phenomenon. A historian must decipher the meaning or significance of past facts and interpret as objectively as possible the context of their appearance, along with their evolution over time. The method through which to do so is deciphering their meaning through the prism and by the means of the present. Thus, each new interpretation brings a different apprehension to history. Furthermore, the present itself gets compressed between two horizons: that of the past, which suggests some stability and meaning of becoming, and the horizon of future facts, which can change our perspective and even how we relate to the increasingly distant past. As put forward by the title, the author proposes we analyze and reflect upon time and historical experience. More specifically, the book is about the cultural significance of these two concepts that have a long tradition in philosophical research. To this end, the first chapter discusses the first of them under the title ‘Time and Eternity. Anthropological Models of Insertion in Time’, and elaborates it from the perspective of cultural anthropology residing inside the subjective experience of time and freedom. The chapter also represents a historico-theoretical approach to the theme of the initial creation and the significance of the historical being in both its renditions as a being made in the image and likeness of God and a temporal being who creates himself. Coming from this second role, man becomes a significant personality; in turn, he gives value and historico-cultural significance to objects and things, humanizing reality. He measures time according to the measure of his own humanity and, at the same time, lives this experience at an individual or social level. The second chapter, entitled ‘Experience and Historical Fact’, explores experience as the reality of the experienced act of life, appreciated as such in its historical becoming, "individualized in time and, thanks to this configuration, raised to a social significance." According to the author, historical experience always has social and cultural significance whilst also representing the act by which the historian decodes the information within the historical document, reconfiguring it with the tools of the present. Man (the historian, especially) has the vocation (and intuition) to communicate the original message and expose it to the present consciousness as a temporally encapsulated value. Thus, the first and foremost theoretical/philosophical significance of the historical experience is that it opens a path to self-knowledge and the knowledge of the history of communities, groups and individuals as social beings, contrary to the belief that experience only deals with the private. Permanently at the intersection of two permanent intentions of human knowledge, open to both the universal and the law but also keeping sight of the individual significance of facts, the historical experience builds a bridge between everything a man experiences and intuits in time and what he knows, or anticipates, about the meaning of conceptual, abstract thinking.
These first two chapters of the book are followed by an exploration of the theme in relation to three types of philosophical and theoretical-historical discourse. In the following three chapters, the author deepens the ideas or content of the initial themes (about time and historical experience) through expositions on the thinking of some personalities who were also concerned with the theme or theory of historical becoming: A.D. Xenopol, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru and Constantin Noica. Starting from the second, a famous Romanian psychologist and philosopher from the interwar period, creator of "energetic personalism", will open two debates on the concepts of time, freedom and historical or cultural creations, briefly discussed here, present in Martin Heidegger and Henry Bergson. In case any of these themes prove of interest to anyone who wants to consult the work or at least the extract from it presented on the publisher's website, a selected passage from this volume's Foreword follows: “Man often forgets that he himself is time and that the most natural attitude towards it is allowing it to run its course. There is no need to research time. Or better yet, instead of confronting it, one must let time reveal itself. By allowing time to find you, you are meeting yourself somewhere in between the road towards understanding at any cost (especially that of sufficient reason) and comprehending the communion with yourself, the closest, yet the furthest fellow we have got in history; this communion does not fade in time (in history), but on the contrary, it is our purpose – meeting our being. We judge history from many different perspectives; we slice and divide it and look for its principles and meanings, but we never let it forget us. According to Constantin Noica, when entering history, man does not want to forget, but the purpose of history, the reality of the historical act is precisely the act of forgetting. It is a synthesis of time. Seeing things from this perspective, the researcher's attitude (philosopher, historian, sociologist, anthropologist etc.) is that of a person wanting to forget while preserving what is relevant to humanity. This meaning is part of recapturing the human essence, no matter how many avatars it had to climb. Do we unify our present time with the permanence we seek inside history? And how else do we look for it other than through dialogue? What we search for in history is the connection with the universal man that inhabits each of us. Communion becomes a vivid history whose meaning unravels for us now, although we have forgotten it: time is no longer seen purely as a rigid straightness but as a network of possibilities and historical meanings dialectically gathered to carry our message through time.”
The book addresses both history-passionate readers interested in the theoretical issues of the field and, most importantly, people who want to reflect on these subjects using the means or instruments of the scientific field in which they are active. They might also be stimulated by current world issues, taking advantage of the specific concerns arising in their profession or after reading other, similar works.
Mihai Popa has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a PhD in philosophy from the Romanian Academy. Presently, he is a researcher at the ‘’Constantin Radulescu-Motru’’ Philosophy and Psychology Institute of the Romanian Academy. He is also the author of: A. D. Xenopol ˗ filosof al istoriei (A. D. Xenopol –Philosopher of History), 2007; Timp şi istorie. Idei şi concepte din filosofia românească interbelică (Time and History. Ideas and Concepts of the Interwar Romanian Philosophy), 2011; Filosofia istoriei la Gh. I. Brătianu. Sinteză şi devenire istorică (History Philosophy in Gh. I. Brătianu’s Work. Synthesis and Historical Development), 2012; Știință și reprezentare în arta Renașterii (Science and Representation to the Renaissace Art), 2014; Antropologia poiesis (The Anthropology of Poiesis), 2019; Ideea de istorie. Concepte antropologice și de filosofia culturii (The Idea of History. Anthropological Concepts and Philosopy of Culture), 2022; and The Anthropology of Poiesis, 2022. He has published over 90 studies and articles in scientific journals.