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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 8, 2000

Contemporary Philosophy

Alan M. Olson
Pages 159-171
DOI: 10.5840/wcp202000881

Epochal Consciousness and the Philosophy of History

Does the philosophy of history have a future? In 1949 Karl Jaspers, echoing Hegel, still identified history as the “great question” in philosophy; but in 1966 Karl Löwith observed that the philosophy of history had been reduced to little more than “epochal consciousness.” During the 1970s analytical philosophers endorsed the critical-speculative distinction of C. D. Broad and the question of universal history was effectively bracketed. Post-structuralists and feminists during the 70s and 80s endorsed the observation of Michel Foucault that history is “the Western myth” and, more recently in 1989, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the “end of history.” In this essay I explore some of the developments contributing to the marginalization of the philosophy of history during the latter half of the twentieth century. Following this, I offer some comments regarding the persistence of the question of universal history.