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International Network for the Theory of History

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History -- Philosophical Inquiry, History -- Pedagogy


In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from the introduction:

In his journal of intimate thoughts (called The Inward Morning) written while journeying through the wildernesses of Montana, the American existentialist philosopher Henry Bugbee (1915–1999)—who had fled there from the Harvard Philosophy Department and who remains little known even in the U.S.—wrote: “Reflection, it seems, must earn the gift of the essential meaning of things past.” I think this is true, that the past is both exemplar of moral reflection and part of the substance of it. I have written a book to argue for the how and why of this truth, called Power and Compassion: On Moral Force Ethics and Historical Change. After it completes its adventures in peer review, it will be published by Amsterdam University Press late this year or early in 2025. My talk today will, I hope, give you a glimpse of the case I make for bending philosophy of history and moral philosophy toward each other. The wilderness of the past is meaningful to us only because it is the site of moral reflection. In introducing my book, I will follow a different line of exposition from that in the book itself. I must add here that in doing so just within my fifteen or twenty minutes I shall not list the thinkers who have influenced this development; but, in addition to those of the past and present, some of them also are in this room and at this conference. I am grateful to them for this opportunity.


Paper read at the International Network for the Theory of History biannual conference, Lisbon, Portugal, May 21–24, 2024.

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