Friday, 20 September 2019

History is Littered With Deceptive Words

Words, like appearances, can be deceptive. The words that historians use to describe the intellectual and social aspects of the past often foster a false impression in modern minds. Words like “humanism,” “renaissance,” “feudalism,” “dark ages,” “enlightenment,” “dialectic,” are modern innovations—they reflect today’s sensibilities and not that of the past.

The scholars in 15th century didn’t use the term “humanism”—they were not even aware of the concept of “humanism.” They didn’t think of their period as the Renaissance. Between 9th and 15th century, the politicians and intellectuals didn’t see their social system as feudalism or dark ages—they had a different conception of their society.

The term “enlightenment” came into being in the middle of the 19th century and it quickly acquired a meaning that is different from the way the French Enlightenment philosophes saw themselves. Aristotle uses the word “dialectic,” not in the modern Kantian sense, but for the science of what happens when instead of thinking by ourselves, we try to convince others.

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