How could a division of history be scientifically based?
This question was seriously studied, and even partly answered, in the first half of the twentieth century by historians like Oswald Spengler in Germany and Arnold Toynbee in England. 187) is good for a smile, and Toynbee himself called it a fanciful scheme of measurements.
The history of the earth had ‘no vestige of a beginning – no prospect of an end.’ Hutton, with his emphasis on the final cause and its boundless character, opened up a new era of division thinking.
The beginning of the nineteenth century marked an important stage in European history, which was later – together with evidence in other fields of intellectual activity – identified as the re-emergence of tetradic thinking.
Or, in a more economic environment: ‘Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.’ Apparently it is possible to notice a repetition in historical events, making the link to a cyclic notion of time.
The cyclic spirit – which is so important in the new, tetradic understanding – was defined by TROMPF (1979) as follows: ‘The belief that history or sets of historical phenomena pass through a fixed sequence of at least three stages, returning to what is understood to be an original point of departure, and beginning the cycle again.’ One of the first classical writers, who worked out a model for a cyclic division of history, was Polybius of Megapolis (in Arcada).
‘If moments have no distinction’, Hutton said, ‘then they have no interest’.
The problem of division of time was carried to its ultimate boundaries by astronomers such as HOYLE & NARLIKAR (1980), who stated that ‘in physics, there is no explicit moment denoting the present. The following quote is given in TOYNBEE’s book ‘Greek Historical Thought’ (1952, Introduction, p. 187 – This (fanciful) proposal by Arnold Toynbee (1952) gave a linear comparison of the Hellenistic and Western European civilization, based on the first visible sign of cultural presence in history as a common point of reference. The shortcoming of this type of parallelism is clear. XV): ‘If we take 1125 BC as a conventional year for Hellenism, in which Hellenic civilisation began to emerge out of the wreckage of the shattered Minoan world, and AD 675 as a conventional year of a similar kind for the West, in which Western civilisation began to emerge out of the wreckage of Hellenism (in its Roman extension), we shall estimate at something like 1800 years the chronological interval between Hellenism and Western history which has always to be eliminated in order to find their correspondence, at any given stage, as measured from their respective starting points.’ Elaborating on this ‘time difference of 1800 years’, Toynbee calculated – ‘with this magic wand in our hand’ – that Plutarch would have been born in 1846 and would be destined to die in 1925 as a last grand survivor of the Victorians! However, the idea that Hellenism and Western civilization can be regarded as equal cultural developments in time is challenging and invites to further study. The division of history must include the whole specter of knowledge and the position of man within a world of ever more complex connections. The division of time is a philosophical matter and is finely entwined in the primeval desire of man to understand himself as a lost fragment in space.