The connotation of historical time and its value

Time is the most important element of history. History is also a science about time in a certain sense. Whether it is staging history, analyzing circular or linear historical concepts, or making predictions about historical trends, all involve time. However, contrary to being an important subject of philosophical research, time has not become the object of historical research for a long time, but more as an attribute of history, or as a self-explanatory factor of historical research, restricting and limiting historical research. The scope, purpose, and significance of the study also gave historians a sense of history, which had a direct or indirect impact on the practice of history.

As humans entered modern society, and with the establishment of modern historiography characterized by science and reason, historians began to focus on the issue of time. This is first of all because the development and changes of society have made historians deeply aware of the acceleration of time and the different historical consciousness brought about by it. On the other hand, the concept of “future” began to appear, giving historians a clearer understanding of the direction of time. Therefore, time has become not only the focus of historical investigation, but also an important medium and dimension for historians to reflect on the past, focus on the present, and look into the future.

Generally speaking, there are two modes for historians to study time: one is diachronic research, which puts the concept of time in the context of history and examines its formation, development and evolution; the second is synchronic research, which is about The concept of time is placed in different contexts, examining different understandings of time in different cultural systems or regions. In addition, historians also tend to study social history or historical sociology of time, that is, to analyze the social connotation of time, the similarities and differences between natural time and social time, the relationship between time and power, and so on. However, the so-called “historical time” here is fundamentally different from the above research path: it focuses on the relationship between the three time dimensions of the past, the present, and the future, and tries to reveal the underlying aspects of these relationships. Changes in historical consciousness.

I. Multiple levels of historical time: Fernan Brodale

It is generally believed that the issue of historical time was mainly raised by the German historian Reinhart Koselek, and further expanded by the French historian Francois Altog. However, before the question of historical time was raised, the French historian Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) introduced the time dimension into historical research earlier. Although Braudel did not pay attention to the relationship between different time dimensions, the theory of multi-periods in historical research he proposed had a positive impact on Koselek’s theory of historical time. Therefore, tracing back to the source of the problem of historical time needs to start from Braudel.

In the great book “Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II” (hereinafter referred to as the “Mediterranean”) published in 1949, Braudel divides time into three levels according to the rhythm of historical development.

The first level of time is called “geographical time”, and its rhythm is the slowest, almost stationary, becoming a deep structure that restricts the development of human history. The first part of the “Mediterranean” book, “The Role of the Environment,” is based on “geographic time.” In this part, Braudel describes the characteristics of the natural environment of the Mediterranean world from the perspectives of physical geography and human geography, and the constraints of the natural environment on the political activities of various countries in the Mediterranean region. In describing the geographical environment, Braudel consciously highlights the high degree of unity and integrity of the Mediterranean world.

The second level of time is called “social time”, and its rhythm is relatively slow. Corresponding to this time is economic history and social history. And “social time” also forms the theme of the second part of the “Mediterranean” book, “The Collective Destiny and General Trends.” In this part, Braudel presents the economic and social formation of the Mediterranean world from five perspectives: economy, country (empire), class (society), civilization and war.

The third kind of time is called “personal time”, which develops fastest and is used to describe historical events. It belongs to the time category of traditional history. The third part of the “Mediterranean” book, “Events, Politics, and People,” specifically addresses “personal time.” In this part, Braudel takes the politics, war, and important figures that traditional historiography is keen to discuss as the research objects, and describes the major historical events in the Mediterranean world from 1550 to 1600 [1] 4-18.

Braudel’s three time-level theories developed further in the later period. In his article “Long Periods: History and Social Science” published in 1958, Braudel used three forms of historical time to refer to three different periods. Among them, “geographic time” is called “longue durée”, and the corresponding historical form is called “structure”, which is based on a century or centuries. The corresponding historical form is called “the situation”, with units of ten to fifty years; the “personal time” is called “short period”, and the corresponding historical form is called “event”, with units of year, month, and day. Relying on the “period theory”, Braudel fully presented the panoramic view of the Mediterranean world in the era of Philip II, providing a more successful example for the study of “General History”.

Among the above three periods, Braudel valued the “long period” the most. He believed that this new historical time form is completely different from previous historians’ perception of time, and it will eventually change the practice and value of historical research: “For historians, accepting long periods of time means changing styles, positions, and ways of thinking, and understanding society with new perspectives. The time they need to be familiar with is a time that slowly passes, sometimes close to stillness. At this level In the past, it is reasonable and legal to go out of the gate of historical time with a new perspective and with new problems, without a strict historical time. In short, with the historical level, the historian can rethink the history as a whole. ” [2] 183

It can be seen that Braudel proposed the “long period” theory in order to think about the history as a whole, that is, the so-called “histoire totale”. The so-called overall history is to change the past historical research which only paid attention to the “short period” of history such as political history and grasp the overall development of human history from a deep structural level. In addition, the introduction of general history is also to break the barriers between history and social science and actively develop interdisciplinary dialogue. Peter Burke summed up the historical ideas of the early yearbook school in this way: “The leading ideas behind the Yearbook may be summarized as follows. First, the problem-oriented analysis of history replaces traditional event narratives. Second, it is based on human activities. The overall history replaces the history with politics as the main body. Again, in order to achieve the above two goals, we cooperate with other disciplines such as geography, sociology, psychology, economics, linguistics, and social anthropology. “[3] 3

Unlike Marc Bloch (1886-44) and Lucien Febvre (1887-1956), the founders of the Almanac, the overall history of Broaddale is in the time frame Presented below. This unique presentation reflects Braudel’s deep thinking on the nature of overall history. First, historical time is the fundamental premise of overall history. Historical phenomena need to develop and change within the framework of historical time. With historical time, overall history can be called a truly objective history. Second, according to the different rhythms of historical phenomena, historical time can be divided into different periods. Each period is a special dimension to glimpse the overall history. Long periods in historical time are used to measure the slowest changing historical phenomenon. Third, Braudel valued historical phenomena measured by long periods or geographical time. He called such historical phenomena “structures” and believed that structures were the center of gravity of overall history. Fourth, comprehensiveness and pluralism are the fundamental characteristics of history. General history should not only reflect historical phenomena over a long period of time, but it should also pay due attention to major events that are traditionally described by historical historiography. As a new perspective of narrative and interpretation of history, long period of time had a profound impact on later history.

First, in terms of historical epistemology, the long-term theory has shifted the focus of historical researchers from subtle surface phenomena to deeper structures. Braudel has repeatedly stated that the main way to study history is to adopt a long-term perspective [4] 5. Of course, long periods of time are not the only way to understand history, but an important way to answer long-term and structural questions about history. Jacques Le Gault once commented on the significance and value of long periods. He said: “The more effective view of the pioneers of new history is undoubtedly the long periods. Historical development is fast and slow, but the internal force that promotes historical development is only long. Only during the time period can it function and be grasped. “[5] 27 Therefore, only when the historian’s field of vision changes from a short period of time to a long period of time can they understand the various levels of history in general and have the opportunity to reconstruct a kind of Macro historical theory. Throughout Brodale’s long research career, he has been committed to long-term studies of history. His unique understanding of the construction of the economic world and the history of civilization, especially material civilization, are all closely related to the long period of time.

Secondly, the long-term breakthrough of the single understanding of time in traditional historiography has revealed the potential diversity and multiple possibilities of historical time. In Braudel’s view, historical time has multiple forms. They can be parallel or intertwined. They are independent of each other but also affect each other. It is an organic combination of “diachronic” and “synchronous”. This new understanding of historical time means that historians must understand and explain the past with a more open and inclusive attitude. History is no longer absolute and unique, but plural and multi-layered. What historians have to do is try to measure the history of each level from different time scales, and then integrate these different histories together to form a more complete understanding of human history [6] 62-65.

Finally, and more importantly, under the coverage of long periods of time, the “past” is no longer single and constant, but is also continuously extended and changed with the extension of the period. The past has thus become diverse and plural. This plural past can establish a pluralistic relationship with the present and even the future, giving people a dynamic way of understanding history, and then enabling people to obtain a sense of history different from the past. The acquisition of this new sense of history helps people rethink the relationship between the past, the present, and the future. This point is of great significance for understanding the issue of historical time.

Experience Space and Expectation Horizon: Reinhard Koselek

As the main interpreter of the question of historical time, Reinhart Koselleck (1923-2006) admitted that his thinking on this issue was deeply inspired by Brodale’s writings and thought that he proposed The concept of multiple levels of historical time is a continuation of Braudel’s theory [7] 143. Koselek particularly noted the inherent connection between the historical structure of Brodale and historical time. In an article titled “Performance, Events, and Structure”, he said: “In recent years, the many problematic principles of social history have allowed the word ‘structure’ to permeate history, especially ‘structural history. These structures include Temporal dimensions that are not covered by a rigorous sequence of events that have been experienced. These structures indicate long-term continuity, stability, and change. Categories such as ‘long-term’ and ‘medium-term’ define the past in a more rigorous way. A century is seen as ‘the kind of situation.’ [8] 107

Despite the influence of Brodale, Koselek used historical time as the object of historical research, not as the background or framework of historical research. In other words, at Koselek, historical time is not an external entity, such as time in physics or time in sociology, but a concept embedded in history itself. As Koselek pointed out: “If the concept of historical time is of particular significance, it is closely related to social and political action, to the people in action and to the suffering, and to their institutions and organizations. “[8] 2

Although Koselek did not give a precise definition of historical time, from his speech, we can see that Koselek understood the historical time as the changing relationship between the past and the future. In his essay, “The Future of the Past: Semantics of Historical Time,” Koselek states that articles in the essay “point to texts that explicitly or implicitly explain the historical experience of time. Rather, these texts … all related to the relationship between an established past and an established future … (these texts provide) all evidence is intended to answer the question: how does experience agree with the past in a specific case; And how are the expectations, hopes, or projections projected into the future described by language? These papers are constantly asking: how is the time dimension of the past and the future related in a given moment? This inquiry involves To the assumption that it is possible to grasp things like historical time when distinguishing between the past and the future, or when distinguishing between experience and expectations (in the anthropological sense) [8] 3.

In demonstrating the changing relationship between the past and the present, Koselek mainly relies on the following two important concepts, namely, Erfahrungsraum (Space of Experience) and Horizon of Expectation (Erwartungshorizont). According to Koselek, the space of experience is the place of memory, which retains all past events of human society, and it points to the past; while the horizon of expectation points to the future, which can only be predicted and cannot be experienced. People are now at the junction of past and future or experience and expectation. Therefore, there is no expectation of departure from experience, and no experience of irrelevant expectations. At each stage of history, different experience spaces have created different horizons of expectation, and different horizons of expectation have affected different experience spaces. According to Koselek, historical time arises from the tension between empirical space and the horizon of expectation. By examining this tension change process, people can understand the true meaning of historical time from the structure. Koselek pointed out: “It is completely human nature to coordinate the past and the future in order to live. Specifically, on the one hand, each person and each group has an experience space related to human actions. The past Things here are presented or remembered; on the other hand, people ’s actions are always based on a specific horizon of expectation. “[9] 111

Before modern times, every stage of human life did not break from the previous stage, and the human experience space was in a continuous state. It is generally believed that methods and examples for the future can be found from past experience, so people have no expectations for the future. Although Christianity brought a future-oriented concept of time with the concept of “doomsday judgment”, there is no more mundane things worth looking forward to beyond the end of the day, but since the 18th century, especially in the so-called Since the “Sattelzeit”, people’s ideas about the past and the future have changed dramatically. First, the future is beginning to become open and has many possibilities, not just the doomsday proclaimed by Christian theology. Secondly, the rapid development of human society, especially the revolution, has shattered the past experience space. Those experiences that were once considered eternal are quickly replaced by new and realistic experiences. At the same time, a progressive and future-oriented historical concept emerged, which promised many wonderful things and believed that human society would develop in a better direction. As a result, expectations for the future continued to grow, the space of experience and the horizon of expectations began to separate, and a clear break occurred at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, and a new and open outlook on the future appeared [8] 255 -277.

Historical time was born from the rupture of experience space and the horizon of expectation, and temporalized history, so that history or the past has a future. Historical time has the same direction and speed as the time people experience in daily life. But the difference is that the direction of historical time can be reversed with the tension between “past” and “future”, and its speed can also be “accelerated” or “slowed” as the social process develops. For Koselek, therefore, historical time is multi-layered, plural, and heterogeneous.

Different times have different historical times, and multiple historical times may exist in the same era. “Contemporaneity in different eras” or the opposite “contemporaneity in different eras” are characteristics of historical time. History is in such a state of coexistence of multiple times.

With the concepts of “experiential space”, “expected horizon”, and “temporal hierarchy” (Zeitschichten), Koselek proposed and developed a multi-level theory of historical time. This is a complex, heterogeneous and multi-layered concept of time, replacing the traditional linear, single and homogeneous time consciousness, and is a highly flexible dynamic time theory. Koselek’s theory of historical time did not attract enough attention at first, and it did not have a great response in the western academic world until his main works were translated into English. Some of the concepts and analysis frameworks he proposed have become indispensable reference methods for historical research, especially contemporary historical research.

For example, the famous French contemporary historian Francois Altogues, based on Koselek’s thinking about pre-modern and modern time experience, further described them as different forms of historical institutions, and revealed that Historical time in the present.

Changes in the historic system: Francois Altog

If Koselek explored the relationship between the past and the future with the help of the concept of historical time, then the French historian Francois Altogues creatively proposed the concept of “Regimes of Historicity,” Try to clarify the relationship between the past, present and future. The concept of historic institutions was first proposed in 1983. At that time, Altogge used it to describe a historical form, but it had not yet given it the meaning of historical time. Later, influenced by the concepts of Koselek’s “experience space” and “expecting horizon”, the historical system began to be used to think about the relationship between the past, the present, and the future. The so-called historical system refers to the strong time order in which people live and obey. Attorg once defined the historical system as: “In a narrow sense, it is a way for a society to explore and reflect on its past; in a broad sense, it refers to the self that each society adopts in its time structure and concepts. Consciousness. “[10] 9

From this perspective, the historical system is not single. It is diachronic in the first place and changes with the development of society. At the same time, it is also restricted by space and has different forms of expression in different spaces. Specifically, in the course of its development, a society will experience different historical systems; and different societies will be in different historical systems due to different stages of development.

Altogge believes that the historical system can be roughly divided into the following three types:

First, the ancient historical system. The historical system in ancient times was the first thinking of mankind on the order of time, and corresponds to what Koselek called “experiential space”. Reflected in historical time consciousness, it is a past-oriented thinking mode. In other words, the past is considered to be a solid and constant time experience, which provides a continuous stream of lessons for the latecomers. People only need to learn from past experience to find solutions to current problems. The historical system of ancient times covers both the ancient and medieval periods in the West. A passage in the Old Testament and Ecclesiastes clearly reflects this historical system: “What is already there will come again; what is done will be done later. There is nothing new under the sun. There is one thing that one can point to, this is new. Who knows, it has already existed in our previous generations. “(1: 9-10) The invariance of the development of such things and the pragmatic view of history The combination led to the famous assertion that Cicero “history is the teacher of life” [11] 227. It emphasizes the continuity of past and present in the space of experience. In the Middle Ages of the West, the description of the past is usually presented to the people at that time in the form of “example history”, in order for readers to imitate and learn from it, to avoid repeating historical mistakes. Because the past provides a reasonable model for the present, telling people how to behave and how to judge their time. Therefore, in the eyes of the medieval people, the presentation of the past is real and tangible, within reach, there is no separation between the past and the present [12] 1.

Second, the modern historical system. The modern historical system originated in the French Revolution of 1789. This epoch-making event in Western history has led to the separation of the past from the present, giving rise to a future-oriented sense of time. In the modern historical system, past experience loses its value as a model, becomes useless, and can no longer provide people with current reference. People turned their eyes to the future, and gradually formed what Koselek called “the horizon of expectation”, that is, to hope to explain the past with the future inspiration. Altogge limited the time frame of the modern historic system between 1789 and 1989, from the French Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall [10] 106. However, this division is not absolute. Because a historic system goes from establishment to stability and then from strength to collapse. The transition of the old and new historical systems did not happen overnight, and there is likely to be a superimposed period in between. Altogge used Chaudbrian (1768-1848), a conservative aristocratic writer during the French Revolution, as an example to analyze the contradiction and sense of rupture between the old and the new historical systems. According to Altogge, Chateaubriand has been rewriting and rewriting his autobiography Memoirs of the Grave for decades because the author tried to adapt himself to the changing time system. Altogge’s comment on this is: “For more than forty years, Chardobryon has been writing and rewriting memoirs, and he has broken this time, an inextricable distance between this old and new historical system. As the reality and pleasure principle of your own writing. “[10] 88

Third, the historical system of the moment. The current historical system appears after the modern historical system, that is, after 1989. At that time, the world structure of the Cold War had disappeared, cracks had appeared in the relatively balanced international order, and the beautiful future promised by modernity had not arrived on schedule. People have found that not only is past experience worthless, but expectations of the future seem a little unrealistic. At the same time that people have no expectations for the future, the time category of the present is beginning to rise rapidly and soon dominates people’s awareness and perception of time. At the same time, society is accelerating faster than ever before, creating a rapidly expanding present. Altog once made a figurative metaphor, thinking that in the current historical system, time is greatly compressed, and the topic of one and a half minutes can cover thirty years of history [10] 113. This current historical system is also called “presentism” by Altog, that is, the present replaces the past and the future and becomes the only frame of reference for people’s actions. It is the time experience of people today [10] 18 . In the atmosphere of presentism, people are no longer interested in the past and the future, and only focus on the present.

Throughout the three historical systems of Altog, the current historical system is the most original to the development of Koselek’s theory of historical time. Not only that, the current historical system also profoundly summarizes the current social situation. If the ancient historical system corresponds to the pre-modern and the modern historical system corresponds to the modern, then the current historical system should correspond to the post-modern. Although Altog did not explicitly point out that the current historical system or currentism is actually a replica of postmodernism, but from the social phenomena it describes and people’s time experience, we can still clearly understand the current history The postmodern character of the sexual system. For example, in the current historical system, the experience of time is instantaneous and rapidly developing, everything is in a transient state, and it seems that there is no eternal value. People’s understanding of knowledge and people’s historical consciousness all show typical fragmented characteristics. Although Altogge accurately pointed out the characteristics of the current historical system, he did not indicate where this time system will eventually go and what historical system it will eventually replace. Just as most postmodernists are fond of criticizing modernism but have no intention of constructing an alternative modernity, Altogge does not provide a feasible solution to how to solve the shortcomings of the current historical system. We can say that Altog’s historical system theory is open, but in this openness, history still has no future.

Fourth, the conclusion

In the modern concept of history, time is essentially single and linear. The staging of history, the evaluation of historical events or historical figures, and the prediction of historical development are basically completed in a linear time structure. However, with Braudel’s revelation of multiple levels of time, single and linear concepts of time are challenged. While historians applied different levels of time to different historical phenomena, they began to take time as an important object of historical research. Inspired by Braudel’s three periods theory, Koselek proposed his own understanding of historical time. For Koselek, the essence of historical time is to explore the relationship between the past and the future, as well as the sense of time and history reflected in this relationship.

Therefore, the process of overlapping and separation of “experience space” and “expected horizon” not only means the change from past-oriented historical consciousness to future-oriented historical consciousness, but also constitutes the evolution of human history from pre-modern to modern. Basic clues. At Altog, the relationship between “experience space” and “expected horizon” was transformed into the evolution and development of different “historical institutions”, and eventually led to the emergence of a new time consciousness of “presentism” .

Synthesizing Koselek’s and Altog’s historical time theory, we can clearly distinguish three different time consciousness and historical consciousness. First, the past-oriented sense of time, which represents pre-modern history. Secondly, future-oriented time consciousness corresponds to modern historical consciousness. Finally, the current-oriented sense of time means a postmodern sense of history. At present, from the perspective of time consciousness or time experience, people are facing an overpowering presentism, which makes people pay neither attention to the past nor the future, and everything is measured only by the value of the present. At the same time, a sense of time or history trying to return to the past is quietly emerging. The populism that has risen globally in recent years is a clear example. Populism rejects globalization, emphasizes national interests, and looks forward to going back to the past and returning to a period when the power of the country was the most powerful. We can take a glimpse of it from Trump ’s 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and Britain’s Brexit campaign. This situation is not accidental, it is to some extent a reaction to the current doctrine, although it takes an extreme approach.

At present, we must go beyond the present and avoid going back to the past. In a sense, the modern historical system still has its value and utility. Because only with the future as a coordinate, can human history have a certain sense of direction, and historians can effectively think about major issues in this future-oriented time frame, and then lift those who have long troubled human Uncertainty. Of course, for the reconstruction of the modern historical system, we need to consider the three time dimensions of the past, the present, and the future at the same time, and reach a delicate balance between the three, instead of focusing on a certain time dimension. . Because only in this way can people take into account the rationality of experience (past), expectation (future) and interests (present), so that the road to humanity-in a sense, is also a process of making history-more Openness and diversity. This is perhaps the greatest value of historical time to historians in practice.