European Historicism Out of Fashion?

    • Cover Porto 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Natalia Danilkina, , The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), The Netherlands


    Instead of discounting the European historicism as an obsolete “fashion”, I will try to make use of it in the analysis of the concept of “culture” in contemporary European philosophy. I will focus on the particular version of historicism, imbedded in the neo-Kantian philosophy of culture. This version which I term as “cultural historicism” appeared in the 20th century political philosophy thanks to Sergius Hessen, one of the intellectual inspirers of the so-called “Warsaw School of Historians of Ideas” (Walicki 2010). In the late 1940s, being engaged in the UNESCO project on human rights, Hessen systematised his views on the development of the modern state and the rule of law in his “Modern Democracy”. He associated the legal development of the “state” – from absolutism through liberalism to democracy – with a cultural transformation in society. The notion of “culture”, in this reading, implies universally valid forms (arts, science, religion, economy, law), which are actualised in every modern society to more or less extent and never in full. From this perspective, the crisis of the democratic state is a manifestation of a cultural crisis which can be resolved either by a regress or a transition to a new stage. In the longer run, according to Hessen’s forecast, the evolution of law would probably be accompanied by the devolution of the state in its modern sense to a form of a social organisation with majorly coordinating functions. An advocate of modern democracy and famous critic of historicism Karl Popper blamed the “great thinkers” like Plato, Hegel and Marx for their attempts to foretell the social future. Taking into account his reservations, I am going to show that “cultural historicism” can be held at some critical points.