Notes on Historism and Creativistic Philosophy

Reading some texts about philosophy, I found the following citations that I find interesting in the context of creativistic philosophy. This is not (yet) the result of any systematic research of the literature; these are rather the first strokes of a sketch of such a research, of a project to go through the legacy works of the philosophical tradition for thoughts that go into a similar direction. At the moment, these are chance finds stumbled upon while reading some secondary literature about different aspects of philosophy. This blog article should not be regarded as a finished philosophical article. It is rather a research note, an excerpt from my note books.

Translations into English are by myself since I do not have English editions at hand (there might be better translations available and there might be established translations of German philosophical terminology that I am not aware of, but I hope my translations are accurate and understandable).

The first citation is from Friedrich W. J. Schelling (1775 – 1854), written in1800[1]. Schelling writes that

“…everything that is taking place according to a certain mechanism, or has its theory a priori, is not an object of history at all. Theory and history are totally contrarian. Man has history only for the reason that what he will do cannot be calculated from any theory in advance”.[2]

As a philosopher belonging to German idealism and romanticism, Shelling probably developed his ideas within a framework of a non-materialist theory of mind and a theory of freedom of will.

However, I find the insight he is developing here quite interesting. Something that can be derived from a theory is static and so does not have a history in the true sense, since everything is predetermined. If there is history, there is no theory and if there is no theory, there must be history. In the context of the theory of creative systems, this makes sense, although this theory is monistic and materialistic (see Thinking out of the box). A creative system, unlike an algorithm, has a history and no static structure. There is no complete formal theory of it since it can change every aspect of its structure. Systems for which complete formal theories exists, on the other hand, are static in the sense that their behavior can be “calculated in advance”. In that sense, they don’t have a history.

The other citation is from the collected works of Wilhelm Dilthey. Dilthey (1833 – 1911) is a main representative of the 19th century philosophical movement of “Historism”.

File:Dilthey1-4.jpg

The main idea of this movement is the historicity of man. In accordance with the citation from Schelling given above, the idea is that human thinking does not follow fixed laws but that its conditions are subject to historical change. It opposes Kant’s view of fixed structures of human cognition that define the limits of the possibilities of cognition. Dilthey sees natural sciences as sciences that explain and find laws (or fixed theories), while the humanities (“Geisteswissenschaften”) are those where we understand things. In this realm, there are no fixed theories, but there is history. In his collected works[3] we read:

“The a priori of Kant is rigid and dead; but the real conditions of consciousness, the way I understand it, and its premises, are a living historical process, are development; they have their history […] The life of history also takes hold of the seemingly rigid and dead conditions under which we are thinking. Never can they be destroyed, since we are thinking by them, but they are developed”[4]

Like Schelling, Dilthey did not operate in the framework of a monistic, materialistic philosophy of mind. However, in the framework of creativistic philosophy, his words make sense. If we view the human mind as a creative system that can develop out of the scope of applicability of any single formal theory, then we view the mind as something that has no fixed laws and is constantly developing. Note, in this context, the citation of Kurt Gödel (1906 – 1978),

File:Kurt gödel.jpg

given by Kurt Ammon in An Effective Procedure for Computing “Uncomputable” Functions.[5]

“What Turing disregards completely is the fact that mind, in its use, is not static, but constantly developing, …”[6]

In analytical philosophy, including the analytical philosophy of mind, attempts have been made to describe the human mind in terms of formal systems. While this has led to interesting results, these attempts have largely been unsuccessful. The framework of creativistic philosophy, on the other hand, offers a way to synthesize the views of analytical approaches and the older historistic approaches to the philosophy of mind. It offers a way to introduce a historical perspective into analytical philosophy and an analytical approach into historistic philosophy.


[1] System des transzendentalen Idealismus, Hamburg 1857, p. 258

[2] German original: “…alles, was nach einem bestimmten Mechanismus erfolgt, oder seine Theorie a priori hat, gar nicht Objekt der Geschichte sei. Theorie und Geschichte sind völlig Entgegengesetze. Der Mensch hat nur deswegen Geschichte, weil, was er tun wird, sich nach keiner Theorie zum Voraus berechnen läßt.“

[3] Gesammelte Schriften, XIX, 44

[4] German original: “Das a priori Kants ist starr und tot; aber die wirklichen Bedingungen des Bewußtseins und seine Voraussetzungen, wie ich es begreife, sind lebendiger geschichtlicher Prozess, sind Entwicklung, sie haben ihre Geschichte […]. Das Leben und die Geschichte ergreift auch die scheinbar starren und toten Bedingungen, unter welchen wir denken. Nie können sie zerstört werden, da wir durch sie denken, aber sie werden entwickelt.“

[5] The citation shows a glimpse of the “static versus dynamic”-discussion among mathematicians, logicians and analytical philosophers. In the introduction of his Article, K. Ammon summarizes some aspects of these discussions.

[6] Gödel (from K. Gödel. 1972a: Some remarks on the undecidability results. In S. Feferman et al., editors, Collected Works: Publications 1938-1974, volume 2. Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.)

(Pictures are from:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schelling_1848.jpg,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dilthey1-4.jpg,

and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kurt_g%C3%B6del.jpg)

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5 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Asifoscope and commented:

    I have added an article on my philosophy blog, containing some notes on Schelling, Dilthey and Gödel in relationship to the theory of creative systems.

  2. Hi Nannus, I’ve just sent you an invitation to pull up an armchair at bigarmchair.wordpress.com for a chat. My other invited guests are The Running Son of runningfather.wordpress.com and Opinionated Man of HarsH ReaLiTy. aopinionatedman.com. The topic is Transpersonal Spirituality. For starters… Hope you might pop in for a while. 🙂

    1. Hi, thanks for the invitation. Sorry, I could not join at that time of the day, I had to go to work. Actually, I prefer to communicate asynchronously since then I have more time to think about what I will write and what somebody else wrote. If it is a discussion about important topics, I prefer it that way. And I am just not the chat-type (I have once written a satire about the people who like to chat. (http://asifoscope.org/2013/01/28/hyper-communicativity-syndrome-hcs/) :-).
      I am going to read what you people have been discussing. When I have the time, I will reply.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I believe I have read your hyper-communicativity satire, and enjoyed it immensely. Any way you wish to communicate is welcome, and thank you for taking the time. 🙂 I am springing off the thoughts about communicating in your article on concepts and language. (http://asifoscope.org/2013/04/13/working-on-the-language/) The BigArmchair is my start to creating discussions about topics which are difficult for many. Hope to see your thoughts added. I may need to think up a suitably deep question for you…

  3. […] my article „Notes on Historism and Creativistic Philosophy”, I cited, among others, the philosopher Schelling, who had the interesting insight that history […]

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