Leopold Von Ranke

Topics: History, Leopold von Ranke, Philosophy of history Pages: 3 (972 words) Published: December 20, 2012
Leopold von Ranke lays down a series of critiques against the philosophy of history. He outlines several flaws in the methodology that he believes prevent it from accurately recreating the historical development of ideas, events, etc. To a large degree, Ranke himself avoids the most fundamental of these flaws while himself attempting to relate the history of European politics from Louis XIV through the fall of Napoleon. However, due largely to the complexity and demandingness of the historical discipline, Ranke’s work is itself open to some of his own objections, preventing it from truly gaining a perfect portrayal of the development of the great European powers. The core objection that Ranke raises against the philosophy of history, which he raises with the most vehemence and frequency, is against the tendency to adopt an a priori perspective rather than an evidence-based one. The philosopher abstractly determines in which direction history ought to be developing, and then looks to historical events to prove that this is indeed the case. For example, Marx’s belief that human history was placed on an inexorable march to the revolt of the proletariat and the collapse of bourgeoisie capitalism, which could cite the rise of Socialist parties, World War One, and the October Revolution as historical evidence of such a trend. Ranke exposes glaring holes in this general methodology. His primary problem with interpreting history through an a priori lens to fit abstract concepts is that doing so destroys the individual consciousness, which for Ranke is at the heart of the historical method. What good do any man’s decisions accomplish, no matter how great he may be, if we believe that the world is naturally hurdling towards some abstract destiny no matter what mere mortals do? If Hegel is correct that history is inevitably marching towards the world spirit’s consciousness of freedom, Ranke argues, then no individual actors on the historical stage have any significance...
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