Last week we considered how, whatever it exactly is, we should see justice as good and preferable to mere power. This week we seek to apply that ideal to the arena of historical human action.
A typical “pragmatic history” provides causal explanations for historical events and attempts to draw practical lessons. This activity, however, risks all sorts of problematic assumptions about which events are important. How can we assign value to events across the historical nexus without undue reliance on prefigured notions of the human good?
This is the theme of Immanuel Kant’s “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View”
Kant agrees that understanding and drawing lessons from history is possible only against some system of "universal history" as a whole. What the pragmatic historian needs, however, is a guiding cosmopolitan "idea" - the human being as “citizen of the world”. Only then is a true pragmatic history possible; one that "makes prudent, that is instructs the world how to reach its advantage better” as opposed to using other human beings simply for our personal gain.
The short essay is posted here