NINE The Notion of an End of History

Philosophic Origins and Recent Applications

James H. Nichols, Jr.


The conviction, grounded on religious faith, that history will have a definite end, revealed to men by prophets or sacred texts properly interpreted, is not unfamiliar to most of us. By contrast, it seems bizarre to argue philosophically, with merely human reason, that history has come to an end, or is about to do so. On the face of things, three other views of history seem more plausible: the view stated in Platonic and Aristotelian writings (and still found in Nic- colo Machiavelli) that history is cyclical; the progressive view that


human beings are perfecting themselves—their arts and sciences, their morals, their polities—with no end in sight; or the view that randomness or chance plays so great a role in what happens that history is just one thing after another, without any overall pattern or meaning or end. Why then would one seek to make a discursively rational, philosophic case for an end of history?

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