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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2021

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Summary

One of the most interesting metahistorical investigations would be an inquiry into the great historical rhythms.

Ortega y Gasset

What is a “metahistory”?

When one organizes the events over periods of years, and gives it an appellation such as “Modernism,” the organization of facts is guided by concepts and values discerned throughout these periods, comparable facts sufficient to call it an “era,” or an “epoch,” or other terms that insist on the shared aspects of those years, regardless of differences seen as well over the span considered. One can call such an effort a “metahistory,” in that what is tracked is not merely human events that are political, economic, ideological, sociological or other disciplinary descriptors, but an overview that critically links all the years under consideration. Even more, to have a “metahistory” is to discern how the people of eras, epochs or the other organizational labels thought. Human history is generated by choices, choices informed by intuitions and more intentional understandings. One of the aspects I will dwell upon in this “metahistory” of Modernism is the presence of “perspective,” how one sees in a time what is there to be addressed and dealt with. Perspectives can be poorly informed or in their very nature not adequate for a sufficient knowledge of what is addressed, even as one must as a human judge what faces one. To discern from evidence how one's perspective configures an event is the “meta” of “metahistory.” To have “meta” knowledge is this comprehension of the scope and benefits, yet limitations, of one's “perspective” and that of others. Only a historian interested in such perspectives can be called a “metahistorian.”

Wilhelm Dilthey wrote of metahistorical rhythms in history earlier than Ortega y Gasset, while not using the concept explicitly. The metaphorical “historical rhythms” meant for Ortega y Gasset as well as Dilthey how humans individually and collectively perceived and acted toward what was necessary in formulating the problems and necessary actions of a time in a society, yet also the changing emphases that created a “rhythm.” What is a “historical rhythm”?

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The Metahistory of Western Knowledge in the Modern Era
Four Evolving Metaparadigms, 1648 to Present
, pp. 1 - 20
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Introduction
  • Mark E. Blum
  • Book: The Metahistory of Western Knowledge in the Modern Era
  • Online publication: 02 March 2021
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  • Introduction
  • Mark E. Blum
  • Book: The Metahistory of Western Knowledge in the Modern Era
  • Online publication: 02 March 2021
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Mark E. Blum
  • Book: The Metahistory of Western Knowledge in the Modern Era
  • Online publication: 02 March 2021
Available formats
×