Civilizational and psychological conceptions of history
These two groups correspond to the inner (collective and individual accordingly) conceptions of truth. The civilizational conceptions exceed from the point that the history is conditioned by the inner moments’ characteristic to great history subjects designated as civilizations. The human history is the history of different civilizations, their birth, growing, development, struggle against each other, decay and fall. The most famous of the civilization conceptions is that of O. Spengler, the German philosopher. This theory is expounded in his book “The Decline of Europe” and worth of more detailed consideration.
According to it, no common history of mankind exists (the mankind itself is an empty word) but only the histories of particular and closed cultures successively changing each other in time do. Culture is an outer representation of the inner mode of according nation’s soul, manifesting itself in the unity of its life, thinking, world outlook etc. In other words the outer world is an exteriorization of the inner one. No outer world as itself exists but only the changing each other theories of it do. Or there are so many worlds as many different cultures exist. Every culture is closed of others and passes certain stages in its development. They are the stages of childhood, youth, maturity, and old age. The only destiny is the directing power of the cultural development. Spengler put up eight cultures that have attained the stage of maturity: European, Antique, Arabo-Byzantium, Indian, Chinese, Babylonian, Egyptian and Maya cultures. He mentioned also the Russian culture abiding in the state of becoming (having not attained the stage of maturity yet) and different from the European one. In the base of every culture an especial soul proper only to it lies. Thus the so-called Apollonian soul is proper to the Antique, the Magic one to the Arabo-Byzantium, the Faust’s to the European culture. Every soul sees the world around in its own mode different from modes others do. Therefore any culture is closed and isolated from any other. Thus, the Apollonian soul saw the world as a set of particular surfaces and body forms, whence all the characteristic features of the Antique architecture (represented with buildings of correct geometric forms), mathematics (consisting of geometry the science of spatial forms and arithmetic the teaching of natural numbers, with help of which it’s possible to count the bodies in the space). For example, the raising to powers was not only unknown to the ancient Greeks but even more it would be a complete nonsense to them. The Magic soul of the Arabo-Byzantium culture aspired to a mystery and tried to see everywhere a magic tale as those of “Thousand and One Night”. Whence algebra is the theory of equations with unknown numbers (that also would be a nonsense for the Apollonian soul which couldn’t imagine even the idea of an unknown number), mosques’ and Byzantium churches’ spires abruptly flying up like from nowhere, arabesques the mystery pattern with the simultaneous ban for depicting human or animals etc. origin. Everywhere a mystery was present, the mystery of which the Magic soul was so greedy. The Faust’s souls of the European culture do aspire to mastering over the space. Whence wide stain-glass windows of the medieval cathedrals, voyages round the world, peculiarities of painting and differential calculation come from. The essence and the final aim of all these phenomena are the same, the mastering over the space. About the Russian soul Spengler wrote that the space isn’t comprehensible to it for it comprehends only the movement by surface, whence the vast expanses of the Russian Empire come from.
Civilization, according to Spengler, is the final stage of the culture development, the time of its decline, when all qualitative achievements are over and only the quantitative growth remains. In the period of civilization nothing principally new can be created, because the culture has exhausted its creative potential and can only bring the already created to its extremes. The stage of civilization is characterized by gigantism, the growth of industry and state machinery; in short, by the extensive but not intensive growing. So the Ancient Greece period was the time of culture but the one of the Roman Empire that of civilization. Spengler appreciated the middle time of culture’s life approximately in 1200─1500 years. The European culture, according to Spengler, has also entered the stage of civilization; that means, all the best it achieved has stayed in the past and only the inevitable decline is going in future. The decline and fall may be, however, delayed through the increase of industry and military might. Especially, it concerns Germany which, according to Spengler, is the brightest specimen of the Faust’s culture. A Caesar is going to stand his hegemony. It’s the unavoidable fate. “We, the Germans, will never come to Goethe again but we may come to Caesar” wrote Spengler. Spengler is considered also the founder of the philosophy of technique.
Another representative of the civilizational approach A. Toynbee, the English historian and philosopher, wasn’t so categorical as Spengler. He used the concept of civilization and didn’t that of culture and wrote of the history as a struggle and/or dialogue of different civilizations. His theory may be characterized in short as the conception of the Challenge and Response. The latter may take different forms determining the civilization’s development. The destiny of a civilization depends on how it can answer the changing each other challenges. Civilization exists till it answers the challenges put before it and perishes if it can’t answer them. The non-responded challenges recur until somebody responds to them. Or in other words, the genesis of a civilization is determined by that how people living on some territory can answer the challenge from the side of nature or human environment. If they can respond the challenge, a civilization emerges and starts growing. There happen civilizations which stopped in their development, because any movement means death for them and so they escaped the direct response (e. g. the Eskimos or other primitive nations).
The decline and fall of civilizations may occur as a result of a positive or negative failure. The first takes place when the civilization’s leaders ‘fall under their own response hypnosis’ (e.g. in the form of excessive militarization exhausting economics of the country). The second means inability of response, leading to anarchy, military or economic defeat etc. The emergence of universal states (in the form of an empire) represents a certain stage of development as well. A universal state means usually a dying rush of the civilization, the last success of a local scale, after which the only decline and fall follow.
As an example of psychological theories such approach as the psychohistory may be put. This is a new interdisciplinary trend that emerged in the USA in the 90s of the 20th century. Its founder Lloyd Demause the American psychoanalyst asserted that the world history may be explained by such psychic factors as the modes of upbringing accepted in society. The adults simply realize scenarios put in their consciousness (and sub-consciousness) when they were children completely dependent on their mentors. All the atrocities and cruelties committed in the history have their causes in cruel treating the children in according epochs. The progress and gradual spreading of humanism are conditioned by that every new generation treated their children little better and milder than their ancestors. Namely thanks to it the mankind has made progress from slave-owner societies to the democracies of our days.