• Instructor: McCrossin, Edward
  • Description:

    01 (T. McCrossin) Overview:
    [H]istory […] permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will, generally speaking, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of humanity as a whole to be a steady and progressive, though slow evolution of its original endowment — Kant, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View

    In her 1986 musical short film, What Do You Mean We?, in the portion of it entitled, “The Dream Before,” included a couple of years later in Strange Angels, performance artist Laurie Anderson imagines a conversation between the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, newly disgruntled. Midway through, Gretel asks, “What is History?,” Hansel answering with an invocation of Walter Benjamin’s final work before fleeing Nazism in 1940 and, fearing capture, taking his own life, “On the Concept of History,” its provocative ninth section in particular, inspired in part by Paul Klee’s 1920 painting, Angelus Novus. “History is an angel being blown backwards into the future,” Anderson’s Hansel offers, “a pile of debris and the angel wants to go back and fix things, to repair the things that have been broken, but there is a storm blowing from Paradise, and the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future, and this storm, this storm is called Progress.” Needless to say, the storm’s still blowing.

    With this image in mind, Benjamin’s original intent and Anderson’s in adapting it, setting it against the background of notable perspectives in the history of philosophy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Rousseau, Lessing, Mendelssohn, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, for example), and alongside competing contemporary ones, including relevant ones outside of disciplinary philosophy (the Utopian and Dystopian literary traditions, for example), we will devote ourselves to developing together a systematic sense of what we mean by the philosophy of history, what we imagine it accomplishing.* We will do so together, our proceedings as participatory as possible, based on the idea that philosophy is best done as conversationally as possible. In addition to anticipating being actively involved in a semester-long conversation, participants should anticipate completing substantial mid-term and end-of-term writing projects.

  • Credits: 3