At the End of an Age

At the End of an Age

John Lukacs
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    At the End of an Age
    Book Description:

    At the End of an Ageis a deeply informed and rewarding reflection on the nature of historical and scientific knowledge. Of extraordinary philosophical, religious, and historical scope, it is the product of a great historian's lifetime of thought on the subject of his discipline and the human condition. While running counter to most of the accepted ideas and doctrines of our time, it offers a compelling framework for understanding history, science, and man's capacity for self-knowledge.In this work, John Lukacs describes how we in the Western world have now been living through the ending of an entire historical age that began in Western Europe about five hundred years ago. Unlike people during the ending of the Middle Ages or the Roman empire, we can know where we are. But how and what is it that we know?In John Lukacs's view, there is no science apart from scientists, and all of "Science," including our view of the universe, is a human creation, imagined and defined by fallible human beings in a historical continuum. This radical and reactionary assertion-in its way asummaof the author's thinking, expressed here and there in many of his previous twenty-odd books-leads to his fundamental assertion that, contrary to all existing cosmological doctrines and theories, it is this earth which is the very center of the universe-the only universe we know and can know.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18092-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. A Brief Introduction
    (pp. ix-x)

    This book is an essay, without scientific or scholarly presumptions. Its shortcomings include the condition that it is—though only in a few instances—a conclusion of certain convictions expressed in two or three earlier books of mine (Historical Consciousness,first published in 1968, twice reprinted since;The Passing of the Modern Age,1970; andConfessions of an Original Sinner,1990, reprinted 2000), of which only the first could be considered a scholarly volume. What compelled me to turn to this present book is set forth, briefly, in the first pages of the first four of its five chapters, wherefore...

  4. A Few Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-x)
  5. ONE At the End of an Age
    (pp. 1-44)

    For a long time I have been convinced that we in the West are living near the end of an entire age, the age that began about five hundred years ago. This is a prejudice, in the literal sense of that word: a prejudice, rather than a preoccupation¹—which is why I must sum up, in the briefest possible manner, its evolution.

    I knew, at a very early age, that “the West” was better than “the East”—especially better than Russia and Communism. I had read Spengler: but I believed that the Anglo-American victory over the Third Reich (and over...

  6. TWO The Presence of Historical Thinking
    (pp. 45-84)

    When I say that “I am a historian,” what does this statement mean? What do people understand by it? Three hundred years ago they would have been unaccustomed to such a designation. Now their first, and most probable, association is: it is this man’s occupation. Or, more precisely: it is his professional affiliation. “A historian”—so he is probably employed, in some institution of higher education.¹

    I do not wish to object to such a professional designation of myself: but it is not entirely to my taste. Yes, early in my life I chose to become a professional historian, to...

  7. THREE The Question of Scientific Knowledge
    (pp. 85-144)

    I must have been very young when I learned— no, recognized—that the competence of a man, important though it might be in particular situations, is secondary, indeed, subordinated to the inclinations of his mind. In the Hungary of the 1930s and the early 1940s, where I was born and grew up, this was so among all kinds of people, including mechanics and other workers. What mattered—surely in the long run, but often instantly, too—was their relationship to other people, which depended on their ideas, rather than on their management of things. The first was more complicated—and...

  8. FOUR An Illustration
    (pp. 145-188)

    Again—and for the last time—I must begin a chapter with a personal account.¹

    Readers who have followed my chapters until now may think that this book is the work of a, probably idiosyncratic, philosophical thinker, rather than a historian. This is not so. Nineteen of my twenty-one published books, the results of more than fifty years of historical writing, are narrative histories.Thiswriter andthisthinker (or, if you prefer: this historian and this philosopher) consist within the same person. My concerns with how to write history and with how to think about history have never been...

  9. FIVE At the Center of the Universe
    (pp. 189-226)

    Everything has its history, including history. Every argument, every law, every thesis, every hypothesis has its history—which means that they cannot be perfect or complete or eternally unchanging. Of course this involves the priority of historical over “scientific” thinking. And that recognitions of the limits of both kinds of thinking correspond to such an extent that, after more than four hundred years, the time has come to realize that there is only one kind of knowledge, dependent on the inevitable limitations of the human knower. This recognition comes at the end of the Modern Age, the two great achievements...

  10. Index
    (pp. 227-230)