Periodization

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Periodization sequesters human experience. The historicist separation of the past from the present prohibits empathy with the past and therefore precludes criticism in the present. … Periodization is the disciplinary strategy with which the present establishes its rule over all time and encourages conformism, to the detriment of autonomy, individual and aesthetic. ~ Russell Berman
Philistines … devised the notion of an epigone-age in order to secure peace for themselves, and to be able to reject all the efforts of disturbing innovators summarily as the work of epigones. With the view of ensuring their own tranquility, these smug ones even appropriated history, and sought to transform all sciences that threatened to disturb their wretched ease into branches of history. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance. ~ Søren Kierkegaard

Periodization is the academic study of history is the attempt to categorize Universal History or divide time into named blocks. The result is descriptive abstraction that provide convenient terms for periods of time with relatively stable characteristics.

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  • Periodization sequesters human experience. The historicist separation of the past from the present prohibits empathy with the past and therefore precludes criticism in the present.
    • Russell Berman, Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty and Western Culture (2007), p. 18
  • Periodization is the disciplinary strategy with which the present establishes its rule over all time and encourages conformism, to the detriment of autonomy, individual and aesthetic.
    • Russell Berman, Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty and Western Culture (2007), p. 20
  • The reified focus on the moment of literary production, in a distanced context—the typical topic of periodization—suppresses the experience of reception, the actualization of the past in the reader’s present.
    • Russell Berman, Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty and Western Culture (2007), p. 20
  • When a thought of Plato becomes a thought to me, when a truth that fired the soul of St. John, fires mine, time is no more.
  • There is no doubt that periodization is a rather effective method of data ordering and analysis, but it deals with exceptionally complex types of processual, developmental and temporal phenomena and thus, it simplifies historical reality. Many scholars emphasize the great importance of periodization for the study of history. In fact, any periodization suffers from one-sidedness and certain deviations from reality. However, the number and significance of such deviations can be radically diminished as the effectiveness of periodization is directly connected with its author's understanding of the rules and peculiarities of this methodological procedure.
    • Leonid E. Grinin (2007) "Production Revolutions and Periodization of History: A Comparative and Theoretic-mathematical Approach." Social Evolution and History Vol 6 (2). p. 75
  • It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.
  • Coming to life as classics, they come to life as other than themselves; they are deprived of their antagonistic force, of the estrangement which was the very dimension of their truth.
  • Through the practice of esotericism, the great minds of the past endeavored to create the impression that they were supporters of the conventional political and religious views of their age. They used all their genius, in effect, to convince their (non-esoteric) readers that even their highest philosophical reflections always remained captive of the prevailing order. Thus, if one surveys the record of past philosophical writing without awareness of its esoteric character, one will necessarily and systematically misconstrue the relation of human thought to politics—or of reason to history, theory to practice—seeing every mind as merely the prisoner of its times. The result will be what in fact we see everywhere in the recent explosion of hermeneutical theory: the radical politicization or historicization of thought.
    • Arthur Melzer, “On the Pedagogical Motive for Esoteric Writing,” Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, Issue 4, November 2007, pp. 1015-1016
  • Philistines … devised the notion of an epigone-age in order to secure peace for themselves, and to be able to reject all the efforts of disturbing innovators summarily as the work of epigones. With the view of ensuring their own tranquility, these smug ones even appropriated history, and sought to transform all sciences that threatened to disturb their wretched ease into branches of history. … In their desire to acquire an historical grasp of everything, stultification became the sole aim of these philosophical admirers of “nil admirari.” While professing to hate every form of fanaticism and intolerance, what they really hated, at bottom, was the dominating genius and the tyranny of the real claims of culture.
  • It is remarkably difficult to avoid falling under the spell of our own intellectual heritage. As we analyse and reflect on our normative concepts, it is easy to become bewitched into believing that the ways of thinking about them bequeathed to us by the mainstream of our intellectual traditions must be the ways of thinking about them. … The history of philosophy, and perhaps especially of moral, social and political philosophy, is there to prevent us from becoming too readily bewitched. The intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds. This awareness can help to liberate us from the grip of any one hegemonal account of those values and how they should be interpreted and understood. Equipped with a broader sense of possibility, we can stand back from the intellectual commitments we have inherited and ask ourselves in a new spirit of enquiry what we should think of them.
  • History teaches us that a given view has been abandoned in favor of another by all men, or by all competent men, or perhaps by only the most vocal men; it does not teach us whether the change was sound or whether the rejected view deserved to be rejected. Only an impartial analysis of the view in question, an analysis that is not dazzled by the victory or stunned by the defeat of the adherents of the view concerned—could teach us anything regarding the worth of the view and hence regarding the meaning of the historical change.
  • Our understanding of the thought of the past is liable to be the more adequate, the less the historian is convinced of the superiority of his own point of view, or the more he is prepared to admit the possibility that he may have to learn something, not merely about the thinkers of the past, but from them.

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