Self-conscious introspection was presented as a source for certain knowledge of history as well as the person. Philosophies of history presented themselves as that part of the historical process that is conscious of itself. As Nathan Rotenstreich has suggested, Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), Hegel, Marx, Benedetto Croce (1866–1952), and Robin George Collingwood (1889–1943) tried to base the very possibility of historical knowledge on the identity of subject and object. They constructed metaphysical entities like "ideal eternal history," "the spirit," "organic civilizations," "clashing civilizations," and so forth, to designate what they took to be the essence of history. If a philosophy of history is the self-consciousness of history, not just a consciousness of history, how history appeared to people who lived at a place and time, philosophers of history must occupy a privileged position within the historical process, at its end, the end of history. From the temporal vantage point of the end of a process, whether it is linear or cyclical, it is possible to discern its direction and meaning. Therefore philosophies of history from Vico to Francis Fukuyama, through Hegel, Marx, and Arnold Joseph Toynbee, have had to include apocalyptic themes in their philosophy to justify their claim to be conscious of the whole historical process. Still, mutually inconsistent philosophies of history seem to have been reflecting the consciousnesses of their particular eras rather than of the whole of history.
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