Category Archives: THEORY OF HISTORY

THOMAS CARLYLE’S “ON HEROES, HERO[1]WORSHIP, AND THE HEROIC IN HISTORY” – 2021-1

Part Two the Hero as Divinity, Prophet, and Poet

Gevorg A. Tshagharyan

The paper discusses Thomas Carlyle’s (1795-1881) last series of public lectures, “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History” (1840), which was the culmination of his four-year experiment as a public lecturer, and was published in book form in 1841.

The study focuses on the three types of Carlylean heroes (divinity, prophet, and poet), which are presented respectively on the background of Carlyle’s perceptions of Norse mythology, Islam, and poetry. Though Carlyle did not allow chronology to define the structural basis of the book, his schema does imply an evolving process in the history of ideas and beliefs. However, in contrast to the evolutionary vision (later formulated by Charles Darwin), Carlyle’s historical pattern presents a pessimistic, descending scale. As he sees it, the form of heroic expression contracts with time, and advancing social circumstances make it increasingly difficult for the heroic spirit to manifest itself.

Carlyle’s book avoids clear schematization. Nonetheless, his own tripartite arrangement of the subject, as suggested by the book’s full title, provides an appropriate framework for discussion. Specifically, Carlyle recognized a close interconnection between the hero, the attitude of hero-worship, and the changing historical environment in which the hero worked out his life. There is a constant interplay between these three elements. The hero, for instance, provided a dramatic impetus to historical events. His effect upon others is like that of a catalyst or, in Carlyle’s metaphor, a lightning rod or conductor. At the same time, the hero does not act in a vacuum or in social isolation. What the hero says “all men were not far from saying”. Bound by time and the culture, the hero hears more clearly than others the monitions of the age and directs its struggles. The effect the hero achieves often resembles that of the inspired poet, “the Seer; whose shaped spoken Thought awakes the slumbering capability of all into Thought”. He sums up and completes a general will and impulse, and his actions authenticate a commonly held sentiment. These relations between the hero and the hero-worshiper are reciprocal. The imaginative reader who “shudders at the hell of Dante” himself becomes almost a poet, just as the ability to recognize a genuine hero is itself a form of heroism.

In considering such historical figures as Muhammad, Dante, and Shakespeare, Carlyle attempted to redress long-held misconceptions, while in his lecture on Odin he tried to encourage a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of Norse mythology and Scandinavian paganism as a credible religious system. In general, the heroes of the first two lectures, Odin and Muhammad, whose teachings would have struck Carlyle’s Victorian audience as arcane, enabled Carlyle to illustrate his conviction that genuine religious feeling is grounded in the permanent fact of hero-worship rather than in any outward framework of myths subject by their very nature to constant historical revision. In selecting Odin as divinity in place of Jesus, the “greatest of all Heroes” (just as he chose Muhammad in place of Moses and the Biblical prophets), Carlyle provoked his audience to think afresh about the evolution of their own religion while his indirection took him clear of giving offense or of becoming entangled in theological difficulties. Equally, through his treatment of Islam and Scandinavian paganism he could stress the shared nature of all religious experience and the centrality of hero-worship itself.

Carlyle’s aim in these portraits was to show his heroes in a true light, finally freed from the “falsifying nimbus” of their fame. If, as he hoped, these heroes could be rescued from malice, misconception, and the false report enshrined in the historical record, if they could once again stand clearly before his audience and readers, might not the example lead to the fostering of new heroic avatars? With this in mind, he sought to overturn the traditional Western view of the prophet of Islam as impostor, fraud, and even anti-Christ. It was in his 1838 lectures on literature that he first expressed his opinion that Muhammad was “no impostor at all”, and the surprised response of his audience may have led Carlyle to return to the subject in 1840. Thus, in this lecture, “The Hero as Prophet”, Carlyle went beyond Jewish and Christian tradition to the great prophet of Islam, and revealed in him the essential heroic qualities: the capability of looking “through the shews of things into things” themselves and a determined readiness to live in submission to the will of God. Carlyle was aware that his Victorian audiencewas likely to have a number of prejudices against Muhammad and he faced those prejudices in his passionate defense of the Arab prophet’s truth and sincerity.

Dante and Shakespeare were Carlyle’s two exemplars of the artist-hero. Carlyle’s case for the artist as hero involves in part a rebuttal of utilitarian estimates of art as useless or impractical. In his accounts of Dante and Shakespeare Carlyle insists that art has a value which is unrelated to price and a usefulness which goes beyond the limits of the utilitarian prospectus. “Will you give up your Indian Empire or your Shakespeare?” he asks his fashionable audience. “Indian Empire will go, at any rate, some day; but this Shakespeare does not go, he lasts forever with us; we cannot give up our Shakespeare!”. In describing the heroic role of the artist, Carlyle perceives a connection between language and action, which condemns as an absurdity the view that artists are merely passive spectators of the world. In the Carlylean meritocracy men of letters and poets belong equally with statesmen and warriors to the heroic fraternity. In the artist hero are to be found traces of the politician, thinker, legislator, and philosopher, “in one or the other degree, he could have been, he is all these”. The reverse is equally true, for there is something of the poet in all other heroes: “Napoleon has words in him which are like Austerlitz battles,” the marshals of Louis XIV were “poetical men”, and Mirabeau could have been a great writer had the course of his life led him that way.

Summing up the essential data of Carlyle’s public lectures, the following is to be singled out: the author clearly formulated a number of fundamental concepts and patterns of his hero theory, which ideological germs have been outlined in his literary, sociological and historical essays over the years. These conceptions led him to the precise point where his fundamental doctrine and his personal quest for self-definition met. The transition from historian to social commentator that had prompted him to publish the lectures on heroes as a book also contained the seeds for future perceptions and re-evaluation of his legacy. Writing what is perhaps the most prophetic book of the 19th century England, Carlyle formulated the circle of historical understandings which became influential especially in the second half of the 20th century.

METAMORPHOSIS OF THE ANNALES SCHOOL: “THE NEW HISTORY” – 2020-4

Part III. The concepts of “Anthropological History” and “History of Memory”

Summary

Smbat Kh. Hovhannisyan
The article examines the paradigms of anthropological history and history of memory interpreted in a new light by the third generation of the Annales school. Hereby, if one of the most significant visions of the positivistic historiography was the quest for the origins of the contemporary events in the past (the so-called “idol of primary sources”), by which the researcher’s outlook was limited to those phenomena, which analogues he saw in the societies of his time, then historical anthropology appreciated mainly those differences that help us comprehend the past, without subordinating the apprehension of the past to the present.

It is also worth pointing out that, if for the founding fathers of the Annales the study of the history of traditions was merely a means for a deeper comprehension of the economic and social histories, then, for the representatives of the third generation of the school, these plots acquire their own independent value. Herein, historical anthropology, developing in parallel with the history of mentalities, serial and quantitative histories, which, in its turn, provided new platforms for the syntheses, was not so distinctly differentiated from the aforementioned research areas.

On the other hand, the importance of the subject of memory and history was again emphasized, and it became clear that mere contraposition could not exhaustingly represent the vast realm of history. Herewith, the apprehension of interrelation between memory and history means revealing, to some extent, not only their differences and opposition, but also and particularly their syntheticaldialogical perspective(s). And before outlining these perspectives it was highly essential, that memory, before turning into history, would go through a cycle of self-overcoming, during which it should gain a historiographical structure. By and large, the history of memory representation, in all its diversity, should appear in the junction in which all probable connections and transitions for historical science are concentrated. This creates the basis and potentiality of an embracive synthesis of historical science, which includes the interpenetrated and interreflected, even antipodal paradigms and conceptions.

THOMAS CARLYLE’S “ON HEROES, HERO-WORSHIP, AND THE HEROIC IN HISTORY” – 2020-3

Part one: the motives and prerequisites

Summary

Gevorg A. Tshagharyan
The article examines the perceptions of heroic and hero-worship in Victorian age. The subject of special focus are the prerequisites and stimuli for the appearance of these terms, their manifestations and development on the background of the mental climate of the époque. In this vein, an attempt is made to examine Thomas Carlyle’s theory of the hero and the heroic within the framework of the intellectual and theoretical assumptions of the time under consideration.

In each of four consecutive years, from 1837 to 1840, T. Carlyle delivered a series of lectures in London. Each lecture series was a great success, and the last of the four produced one of the most famous books of the author, “On Heroes, HeroWorship, and the Heroic in History”.

T. Carlyle became interested in heroes and hero-worship early in his career. In the 1831 essay on “Schiller”, for instance, he declared that “great men are the Firepillars in this dark pilgrimage of mankind; they stand as heavenly Signs, everliving witnesses of what has been, prophetic tokens of what may still be, the revealed, embodied Possibilities of human nature”.

The heroic was a central element in Carlyle’s thinking and was to become, after several anticipatory treatments in various essays and occasional reviews, the leading principle of all his later social theory. The subject was also a major Victorian preoccupation, widely shared by Carlyle’s fellow Victorians who, said Edmund Gosse, turned “admiration” from “a virtue into a religion, and called it Hero-Worship”. In this sense, one of the reasons for the enormous vogue of heroworship is the cult of enthusiasm. For hero-worship, in the words of its major prophet, is “infinite admiration”, and the worshiper an enthusiast who “can love his hero or sage without measure, and idealize, and so, in a sense, idolize him”. This perception marks a striking reversal of the rationalistic attitude in the previous century. When D. Hume and E. Gibbon submitted the heroic to the cold glance of reason, they aimed to see it as a mask to hide selfish ambition or else a patent form of fanaticism and delusion. But when enthusiasm became a virtue, the Romantic Victorian eye brought with it the power to see men as a hero and the heart to respond with appropriate worship.

T. Carlyle’s 1840 lectures were, therefore, an incursion into the mainstream of Victorian thought, and his theory of the hero in some ways was merely the final, high doctrine in a movement which had been for some years under way. Carlyle’s originality lay not so much in his choice of subject matter as in the depth and seriousness of his treatment and the imaginative richness with which he invested it.

T. Carlyle also set out to counter certain fashionable contemporary attitudes in which history was considered mainly as an impersonal play of forces. According to such views, great men were, as James Anthony Froude remarked, “the creatures of their age, not the creators of it, scarcely even its guides”. In line with egalitarian sentiments, the individual leader was judged no differently from his fellows, and was seen to be merely in a position to hasten a development which would have eventually taken place without him. Carlyle sought to counteract such prevailing notions in his 1840 lectures and to posit instead the view that (in Froude’s words) “every advance which humanity had made was due to special individuals supremely gifted in mind and character, whom Providence sent among them at favoured epochs”. Hence, at a time when the Bible and the Church were no longer able to satisfy the religious instincts of many Victorians, the heroic and heroworship, like nature and great men, could be welcomed as another manifestation of the divine spirit working in the world.

Thus, when the Victorian period began, all the prerequisites for hero-worship were present: the enthusiastic temper, the conception of “great man”, the revival of Homeric mythology and medieval ballad, the popularity of W. Scott and G. Byron, and the living presence of Napoleonic soldiers and military leaders. In the fifty years after 1830 the hero-worship was a dominant factor in English culture.

THE GREAT THEORIST OF NATIONALISM AND INTERNATIONALISM – 2020-1

To the 150th birthday anniversary of Mikael Varandyan

Summary

Seyran A. Zakaryan-Doctor of Philosophical Sciences
The prominent Armenian historian, political scientist of the 20th century, AR Federation (Dashnaktsutsyun) theorist-ideologist Michael Varandyan (1870-1934) considers issues of the Armenian identity both within the context of historical and cultural developments, current political events, as well as in the context of historical philosophy, social anthropology and historical psychology. Such an approach allowed him to view the three key questions about national identity in the context of pastpresent-future, and more precisely, make the past and the future more meaningful based on contemporary requirements. The questions in discussion are: Were we in the past? What are we in the present? And what will we be in the future? Varandyan is prone to the approach, according to which identity is not a set of perpetual and pre-created characteristics but a summary of continuously created, shaped and transformed identifications. Unlike the Christian paradigm of the Armenian identity, where the Church, the faith and the religion played the main role, Varandyan, following the Armenian enlighteners of the second half of the 19th century, favors the secular paradigm of identity, where the nation, the homeland and the secular values are of main importance (democracy, science, secular education, freedom of conscience, etc.).

First of all, Varandyan’s negative attitude is conditioned by his radical secular views (according to him, religion has “sanctified the slavery of the mind and heart” at all times and in all places, and the “clerical class” has in its turn exploited the human soul), dominated by the cult of science and practice and the criticism of religion. Secondly, he negatively assesses the role of the Christian religion, the church and the clergy in national life.

According to Varandyan, the Armenian existence is paradoxical/contradictory because on one side the Armenian nation is a pioneer of progress, who carries and spreads the European culture and values, and on the other side it is careless and indefinite to its physical and spiritual existence and its forms. It strives for freedom and sovereignty on one side and on the other side it is disunited and passive when it comes to the national liberation fight. On the one hand, it advocates the preservation of national values, and on the other hand, it is absorbed by internationalist (transnational) ideas and is subject to assimilation and so on. Varandyan sees the solution of these contradictions in “spiritual revolution” which will change the forms of attitude towards the national existence and its values and will purify the identity defects. The “hero” of that revolution must be a true patriot, who is a carrier of both national and universal principles, is armed with national values and is ready to fight for his and other nations’ freedom and sovereignty.

THOMAS CARLYLE AND HIS ESSAY “ON HISTORY” – 2020-2

Summary

Gevorg A. Tshagharian
The article examines the historical perceptions of Scottish thinker and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) in the light of the emergent historiographical concepts of the era. Herein, it reappraises, in typological manner, the author’s peculiar contribution to the European historiography and humanities of the 19th century, entirely free from the radical-ideological colourings. An attempt is made to observe Carlyle’s comprehension of the past on the background of the further metamorphoses of historical thought. With this end in view, the translation and scrupulous annotations of Carlyle’s essay “On History” (1830) are tended to provide insights into the apprehension of the author’s historical conception.

Thomas Carlyle’s first essay on history presents some of his innovative approaches on the activity which was to engage him from the 1830s onward. It maintains that the recording of history is one of the activities which defines us as human beings; that history must involve society and other provinces of thought as a whole, and not be restricted to chronicles of historiographers or annalists; that history in all its inscrutable mystery can never be thoroughly apprehended. The essay also presents Carlyle’s pioneering distinctions between, on the one hand, narrative and action and between the artisan and the artist, on the other. Carlyle challenges the notion that history is “Philosophy teaching by Experience” and argues that because “History is the essence of innumerable Biographies”, neither the recording of historical experience, nor the drawing of philosophical truths from that experience is an easy task. Carlyle suggests that the historian should approach history not with the theoretical aspirations of philosophy but with the eye of faith, which recognizes the infinite mystery in History.

There is, Carlyle argues, “a fatal discrepancy between our manner of observing” events “and their manner of occurring”. While man inevitably conceive of history as a “Narrative” (a “successive” series of events), it is in reality an “Action” (a “simultaneous” group of events, related to each other not just by linearity but by “breadth” and “depth”, “Passion and Mystery”). The historian best able to embody the “Action” of history is not the “Artisan”, who works mechanically with discrete phenomena, but the “Artist”, who works with a sense of the organic whole.

THE PARADOXES OF ECONOMIC DETERMINISM – 2019-4

The criticism of Marxist theory of socioeconomic formation

Summary  

Hovsep I. Aghajanyan
In their theory of socioeconomic formation K. Marx and F. Engels tried to present the patterns of human history. Marxism considered the basis for the change in these formations to be the operation of the law of the interaction of productive forces and production relations. According to this logic, Marx and Engels presented the history of social development as a sequence of the so-called primitive communal, slaveholding, feudal, capitalist and future communist social system. According to Marxism, socio-economic formations are determined by the relationship between the base and the superstructure. A basis is an economic system conditioned by proprietary relations. According to the nature of the basis, a superstructure is formed, i.e. set of political, legal and ideological relations. For this reason, Marxism considers the sphere of spirituality to be derivative with respect to the basis.

In the article it is shown that the Marxist theory of the emergence and transformation of private property and socio-economic formations does not correspond to reality. As a result of the analysis of the socio-economic, political, legal systems of Ancient Rome and Greece, it is substantiated that they were not classical slave-owning states. Marx and Engels explained the socio-economic, spiritual, cultural, state-political, i.e. contradictory and complex civilization processes from the point of view of class antagonism, the basis of which is the relationship of private property. The thousand-year history of mankind shows that such confrontations are just external manifestations of the underlying processes taking place within society. Moreover, on the basis of private property, internal incentives for human life are built, which, first of all, have spiritual and psychological motives, are manifested in the sphere of material production.

The main events of the history of mankind cannot be separated from the general process of civilization and presented as a controversial theory. Marxism, ignoring the processes of civilization, on the basis of possessive relations built the logic of transformation of the social system, which is conditioned with complex and contradictory institutional relationships. The key to revealing the essence of the transformation of society is the knowledge of the internal logic of civilization processes. Marxist criteria for assessing the nature of the social system do not work, because they are built on false and divorced from reality schemes. For this reason, Marxism did not pass the historical test, as it presented the internal motives of complex social events from the point of view of their external manifestations.

POETRY AND MÉTIER OF HISTORY – 2019-1

On Armenian Translation of Mark Block’s “History of Defense or the Historian’s Craft”

Summary

Albert A. Stepanyan

Key words – “Annalist movement”, anthropological history, general history, short and long duration of history, civilization, legitimization of history, understanding of history, poetry of history, craft of historian.

The paper is about the renowned monograph of M. Bloch «Apologie pour l’his toire ou métier d’histoire» translated into Armenian, studied and commented by Sh. Ma kar yan and S. Hovhannisyan. On the background of achievements of Annales School, the her me neutic aspect of the monograph is discussed being focused on the basic ideas and concepts of the monograph – description, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, reasoning and under stan ding of information of primary sources in order to process of them historical facts. On the axis of historical time and causality, they make up narratives and texts capable to un cover the profound levels of the past and present. Their exact equivalents shape an opportunity to expand the borders of modern Armenian historical epistemology

WESTERNIZATION IN HELLENISTIC AND EARLY MEDIEVAL ARMENIA – 2017-4

Albert A. Stepanyan
Transformation of natural epic history to artificial rationalistic-pragmatic and metaphysic history occurred in Armenia under the impact of Hellenistic social and intellectual experience. During long centuries, Hellenism (with different intensity) was immanent to Armenian history. Two waves of it are trans parent. The first covered 3d -1st centuries B.C. and gained its obvious results from the reforms of Ar ta shēs I (189 – 160 B.C.), the founder of Artaxiad dynasty. It reached its heights in the 1st century, under Tigran II and his son Artavazd II. As to the second wave, it gained efficiency starting from the 4th century A.D. and was aimed to combine axiological systems of Hellenism and Christianity. Hellenistic Christianity made the core of the new paradigm of Armenian culture, which came to maturity in the Golden Age (5th – 7th cc.).

KURDS AND WORLD HISTORY – 2017-3

Summary

Gevorg S. Khoudinyan

Key words – Abdullah Öcalan, defense speech, civilization, capitalism, democratic society, democratic nation, United and independent Kurdistan, Democratic confederate Kurdistan, W. Wilson’s arbitral award.

The five volumes of Abdullah Öcalan’s works that are published in Russian in Moscow in 2011-2015 are written as extensive arguments of his defense speech in the Turkish court, but in fact they are scientific and political justifications for the political claims of Kurdish people. The rich knowledge and desire to find universal solutions to national problems show that in the person of A. Öcalan, who has achieved great intellectual progress of the Kurdish people, we are dealing with a surprisingly harmonious image of the national figure.

In the first volume of his works, representing the alternation of the cradle of Near-Middle Eastern civilizations and separate civilizations that emerged from GöbekliTepe-Portasar (not far from his native Urfa), Öcalan uses the fact that the geographical coordinates of the Taurus-Zagros arc as «Fertile Crescent» base correspond to the current places of residence of the Kurds and reckons them among a number of famous peoples of the Axis time, such as Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Jews or Persians. Thus, he repeats the groundless attempts of some Kurdish authors who make such judgments based on the play of words with historical tribes and toponyms that are close to the word «Kurd». This he distorts the fundamental principles of F. Braudel, whom he repeatedly quoted. The Brodelian notions of historical times and the «longue durée», necessary for assessing the history of civilizations, are completely distorted.

In the second volume of A. Öcalan’s works «Capitalist civilization» an attempt was made to overcome the Marxist perception of this concept and to view capitalism as a System that was formed along with commodity-money relations, and then together with the city and the state. Thanks to this, Öcalan identifies civilization and the social system, which allows him to give some civilizational essence to the struggle against capitalism, which he believes repeats the Hitler experience of creating an indicative society through his three branches (sex, sport and show).

In the third volume of his works A. Öcalan sees the solution of the fundamental problem of building a democratic civilization in the formation of political and democratic confederations to unite nations, which, in his opinion, is the only way to overcome homogeneous nation-states that are not alien to genocides and other state crimes.

In his fourth volume entitled «The Crisis of Civilization in the Near and Middle East» A. Öcalan passes to the problems of the region where he was born and fought for the solution of the Kurdish problem. Here he tries to gently transform the fact of the correspondence of modern geographic coordinates of the Kurds settlements with the cradle of ancient civilizations and turn it into the idea of the Kurdish homeland. To do this, he again and again creates unreasonable, absolutely fictitious and unscientific parallels between Sumerians and Hurrites and the Kurds now living on this territory.

The Öcalan program on the solution of the Kurdish question is more extensively presented in the fifth volume entitled «The Kurdish Question and the Implementation of the Democratic Model of the Nation». Although Öcalan considers Armenians to be a direct and immediate heir of Urartu culture, but in his vast historical digression the concept of «Armenia» is almost absent, And from the 11th century, when the Seljuks appear, he immediately replaces Armenia with the non-existent «Kurdistan». He stubbornly avoids answering one elementary question – which state existed in these territories for two thousand years after the fall of Urartu.

In the issue of assessing the causes of the Armenian Genocide, Öcalan partially repeats the statements of Marxist historians about the «expansionist goals» of the Armenian bourgeoisie as a result of the early development of capitalism among the Armenians. He also partially repeats the thesis about the «Turkish rebuff», invented by Turkish historiography, on the Armenian demand for independent statehood on the eve of the First World War. By transforming the internationally recognized (in 1914) problem of implementing reforms in Western Armenia in «Armenian separatism», he bypasses the issue of the responsibility of the Kurds for the Armenian Genocide. Meanwhile, the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the responsibility for it not only of Turkey as a state, but also of the Turkish and partly Kurdish people who directly and voluntarily participated in this bacchanalia, is the only way to build a democratic society in our region.

Moreover, based on the ideas of a democratic society and democratic nation (which were discussed by A.Öcalan), the greatest democrat of the first decade of the 20th century – US President Woodrow Wilson, on November 22, 1920 has already made a true fraternal division of Armenian historical lands between Armenians, Turks and Kurds and the results of his arbitral award are fixed on the corresponding map on the basis of the international mandate. According to this arbitration, Armenians do not get «Great Armenia», as the Turkish falsifiers of history say, but only a third of their historical lands.

And irrespective of whether this division comes from the San Remo conference decisions, from the Treaty of Sevres or Woodrow Wilson’s arbitration, which retained its legal force, it was the greatest victory of democracy in our region, which was only temporarily suspended by the joint efforts of the Kemalists and the Bolsheviks. These decisions of the international community have nothing to do with the neo-imperial program of the United and Independent Kurdistan or the Democratic Confederate Kurdistan, which is the cover of the first. Because the creation of the Great Kurdistan instead of Turkey is not part of the plans of world powers.

WESTERN CANON OF HISTORIOGRAPHY IN HELLENISTIC ARMENIA – 2017-2

Albert A. Stepanian
The western canon implied rational perception of history with a purpose formulated still by Herodotus as follows – to find out how, when and why (pw~§, potev, dia; tiv) happened important events of history [Herod., I, 1, 1].1 Efforts of Herodotus and his close contemporaries reformed the logographic genre of storytelling in an area of rationalistic study and explanation of the past. In accordance with this approach, the term iJstoriva was coined for denoting investigation in its proper sense.2 From this time, the image of historians gained a particular social significance since the investigation of the past (despite pure curiosity) pursued practical interests.