The Universal And The Particular
The first applications of this particular understanding can be seen in the attempts by Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), and Karl Marx (1818–1883) to assess history in terms of how one might, through the proper understanding of historical trends and developments, actualize history's end (or purpose). For each of these thinkers, the proper application of reason to history would enable humans to live together in peace and harmony. But these sorts of approaches to studying politics were quickly displaced by narrower, more empirical approaches. Hegel had argued that the existential problem of human history had always been oriented toward an interplay, or dialectic, between the particular and the universal. Humans, in other words, have always sought to understand the nature of being, not only their existence in the world but also the existence of the world. The movement of history, then, can be seen in terms of the dialectic between developing understandings of the particular place of humans in the universe. For Hegel, the critical metaphysical question became not so much "why are we here?" but "who are we, here?" Hegel, in other words, sought to situate human beings within lived (or material) history and also within spiritual history. Hegel, that is, wanted to determine who people are or believe themselves to be (in spiritual history) at particular moments (in lived or material history). He understood who individuals are at particular moments in history to be simply the current synthesis of the historical dialectic between the particular and the universal. This approach, he believed, allowed human beings to ask not only what it means to be me (as a self or as an individual apart from others) but also what it means to be us (as individuals living together in a particular material and spiritual moment in history).
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