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Cosmos and History: The Mith of the Eternal Return

Paperback - 19 April 2012
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Had we not feared to appear overambitious, we should have given this book a subtitle: Introduction to a Philosophy of History. For such, after all, is the purport of the present essay; but with the distinction that, instead of proceeding to a speculative analysis of the historical phenomenon, it examines the fundamental concepts of archaic societies which, although they are conscious of a certain form of "history," make every effort to disregard it. In studying these traditional societies, one characteristic has especially struck us: it is their revolt against concrete, historical time, their nostalgia for a periodical return to the mythical time of the beginning of things, to the "Great Time." The meaning and function of what we have called "archetypes and repetition" disclosed themselves to us only after we had perceived these societies' will to refuse concrete time, their hostility toward every attempt at autonomous "history," that is, at history not regulated by archetypes. These dismissals, this opposition, are not merely the effect of the conservative tendencies of primitive societies, as this book proves. In our opinion, it is justifiable to read in this depreciation of history (that is, of events without trans-historical models), and in this rejection of profane, continuous time, a certain metaphysical "valorisation" of human existence. But this valorisation is emphatically not that which certain post-Hegelian philosophical currents notably Marxism, historicism, and existentialism have sought to give to it since the discovery of "historical man," of the man who is insofar as he makes himself, within history.

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