THE LAWS OF HISTORY
About the Method
Is it not against reason – I ask in November 1943 – to start a new book not knowing where it will be necessary to seek a place to spend the next night, living in constant uncertainty about water, fuel and roof, at a time when the Decalogue has been suspended and all private property has been effectually abolished, when travesty of justice is clothed in legal forms and when manuscripts transferred from one hiding place to another may suddenly find themselves in a place even the author will never know? It is obvious that beginning this book is against common sense, but reason is something more than just common sense. Is it possible to live by common sense alone? As a rule one should guide oneself by common sense but sometimes some divergence from it may become a duty. A book becomes a vis maior [higher force] above the author, since it represents a direct consequence, result and outcome of my previous studies.
The origin of my investigations of the laws of history dates back to my student days when I tried to “scare” the professor of mine to whom alone I owe the fact that I learned something, the late Wincenty Zakrzewski, whose memory is worthy of great respect. However he was not at all impressed by my interests and he suspected that they will pass and drown among the strict specific professional studies from which I did not shun. Dear Master! I followed the rule: et haec accipienda, et alia non omittenda [and this must be taken, and other things not omitted.].
For long years, parallel with all my other work, I have been searching for any relationships with this basic issue bothering me all my life, and grains accumulated quietly, in seclusion. Operating exclusively by the inductive method I have realized after many years that my young man’s dream was not an illusion, but as a consequence I have found myself completely outside the mainstream of the Polish scientific community. I believe that after having written The Byzantine Civilization (Koneczny 1973) and The Jewish Civilization (Koneczny 1974; 2011) the expectation that from the study of civilizations a new perspective of the universal history will arise is fulfilled. Thus in the name of scientific truth I wade into the topic ever deeper.
The study of civilizations represents simply a higher level of historical studies, representing their extension and deepening, and at the same time their elevation. The scientific value of historical enquiry will be multiplied when from the kaleidoscope of facts and events some systematic synthesis is finally extrapolated. The horizon of historical thought expands so dramatically that no one will be able to predict the limits of the intellectual current germinating here. There will be enough space for a multitude of investigators.
With unavoidable necessity the study of civilizations poses the question: Do laws of history exist? This is a basic problem for science in general, because immediately with it (again with unavoidable consequence) looms the question whether phenomena of the humanities are at all subject to laws, though not necessarily the same laws as those to which natural sciences are subjected.
Thus the problem at hand has its place in the great pool of integral knowledge.
There was no lack of efforts to discover laws of history, starting with St. Bonaventure in the XIIIth c. all the way to our contemporary, the Spaniard Ortega [y Gasset José 1883-1955] who however is using an outmoded meditational approach. The theory of historical returns has appeared five times. Geographical, economic, anthropological, legal and biological assumptions were proposed. However, not only the issue was not resolved, but even the problem was never clearly defined. This requires the inductive method, which however was adhered to by only five great scholars: Bacon of Verulam [Sir Francis, Baron Verulam, 1561-1626], Descartes [René 1596-1650], Vico [Giovanni Battista, 1668-1744], Montesquieu [Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de, 1689-1755] and Guizot [François 1787-1874]. The positivists discovered new angles of observation but these new vantage points did not represent a new method and even they wandered into deductions. What resulted was (regrettably always unhappily), the so called philosophy of history and historiosophy from which historians kept at a distance because it consisted of presumptions that were individually and arbitrarily thought out, of complicated deductive turns of phrase that were frequently at odds with logic itself. Within the deductive methodology speculation reigned, and the greatest number of adherents was to be found in simple meditation, permitting everything anyone proposed, not liming anyone and allowing wide latitude in interpretation. Only the correct inductive method could achieve something but it could not do much in the field of historical synthesis since in practicing it there are gaps of whole generations and after the death of Guizot (1874) no one picked up his heritage.
Finally only non-historians (philosophers, natural scientists, men of letters) took up historiosophical investigations, while historians stayed away from any “syntheses” assuming them to be the product of amateurism. Among historians a mood of hostility towards any “historiosophy” developed and every mention of synthesis evoked a jeering or pitying sneer. Such a quagmire was created by non-historians that historians preferred to turn their back on this entire muddle and ignored the whole issue.
They claimed that it is too early to propose a synthesis, because too many parts of history, even very important ones, are not sufficiently well explained. Before one would be able to approach proposing even the most general conclusions that could lead to syntheses one would have to begin with the systematic and critical publication of sources on the widest possible scale and only then and on their basis could one develop numerous monographs and still more “fragmentary contributions”. In other words one should first acquire a firm position in specialization before dreaming of generalizing, not to mention the proposing of laws of history.
In this they were correct. However a certain doubt can be raised, namely that neither larger monographs nor smaller contributions will ever be sufficient in number. Never will all aspects of history be so fully explained that it will not be possible to discover something new. Never will there be a lack of gaps of our knowledge because the next generation will pose new questions to old issues and with them new doubts. This is what progress is for – to be ever more demanding! When then will a proper time for a synthesis come? Obviously never, because specialization will never be finally done!
Furthermore one has to be aware that historical sciences would become destined to oblivion, that the scientific development of history would become an impossibility on the very day when specialists in the study of sources would tell us that they have nothing more to discover. Of the two it would be preferable therefore for the “philosophers of history” to become silent rather than for the authors of monographs and the even most narrow minded fragmentary contributors to do so.
Thanks to the intensive effort of specialists ideas changed and matured concerning many important moments in history. Older textbooks today seem to be infantile and unscientific. Looking through them we wonder how was it possible to demand so little from the historical sciences? Today in secondary schools we touch on many more problems and more deeply than was earlier to be found in scientific works. We owe this to the results obtained by systematic specializations.
We should grant credit to the historical specialists for using and continuing to use exclusively the inductive method, having developed it exemplarily and continuing to perfect it. Historical method reached such a stage of development that no historian of today needs to feel inferior relative to any other science. In terms of method we do not stand lower than the natural sciences.
However, in order to achieve progress scholarly studies need to move forward in two ways, by way of specialization and by way of generalization. Each generation should attempt a synthesis. It would be contrary to reason to wait for a time when it would be possible to produce a synthesis that would never require any further correction. Whether in specialization or in synthetic endeavours nothing will ever be completely finished and the possibilities of improvement will not end so long as the inquisitive spirit is alive among investigators. As long as we are able to think critically we shall not attribute to any of our intellectual achievements the quality of perfection, i.e. such a state in which there is no room for improvement, supplementation or even total remaking. Since this is not possible why refrain from generalizations only because they are not perfect? A serious scientific error has therefore been made.
We are amazed by the fact that the inductive method was not tried also in the working out of a historical synthesis. Is inductive historiosophy not possible? I am convinced that it must be inductive. Attempts at this should have been tried long ago. More than half a century ago work should have been continued for several decades in the direction shown by Guizot instead of leaving history without generalizations. Some skeletal science was made out of it and this has led to the situation where from other fields of knowledge doubts were raised whether history is a science at all.
This skeletal state of affairs is lasting much too long. For too long specialization holds scientific monopoly in the field of history. As we know every monopoly hides within it germs of demoralization. After a longer period of time the negative effects of the exclusive domination of specialists had to show up.
Since quite some time history is on a downward slope in the countries that adopted the German methodology. This leads to disintegration. From historical investigations a whole pile of sand is formed or even of dust, moved by winds in all possible directions. From a thousand tediously made fragmentary contributions the sum is equal to naught. The human mind however, even of medium intelligence, demands general results and as a consequence dilettante syntheses have appeared and in particular are made by those who are politically inspired. They replace a science that fell as it were under the spell of the seven dormant brothers!1 We all know these “state-shaping syntheses”. They all have this in common that they soon become boring and then, after a pause, the custom comes to ignore even the slightest symptoms of historicism, even if it would adopt most popular forms. The situation was reached that someone said that history is a string of actions by criminals written down by idiots! So be it! Either we can demonstrate and popularise the laws of history, but with a method appealing to the mind of a modern man who is a great sceptic, or the historical arena will be all the more considered a race field organized for jesters at which honest men can only be spectators and not very sure about their personal safety at that.
If historians are unable to work out a synthesis this strange situation can be resolved only in two ways. Either these historians are unqualified to do what they should be able to do, or history is not a science.
What is worse is that this method has exhausted itself and not nourished by new juices it unfortunately turned barren. The exclusiveness introduced by specialists begins to lead to stagnation. The monopoly practiced demonstrably led to what I would call abuse. Exclusive specialists believe themselves to be the only possible representatives of historical sciences and they treat those who concern themselves with the problem of syntheses as beings of a lower order. This is indeed a strange way of thinking in view of the fact that with the inductive method each historian has to be primarily a specialist of some limited sector of history and one should not approach syntheses before years of studies in some special field producing fragmentary contributions and then monographs in it2. The synthesizer is being looked upon with disdain in spite of the fact that he is also a specialist. Thus, is this not only so because beyond specialization and above it he knows something more?
I have met with the opinion clearly voiced (perhaps others have also heard it?) that only he can be considered a true scholar who has no interests beyond his own speciality. Are others scholars therefore of doubtful measure? To be consequent the greatest scholars would be those who are specialists only in minute details. This would place at the far end of knowledge such learned men as Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, Copernicus3 etc, who were excessively interested in ... everything.
It is an intriguing fact that great manifestations of communal life that are developing evolutionarily experience fluctuations in the direction of their development. Any evolution is full of doubts and deviations. Also it is not given to science to work itself upwards all the time. It progresses also by turns and at each one a billboard announces the famous formulation of Mickiewicz [Adam 1798-1855 Polish poet]: One has to study, the golden age has passed.
Sciences develop thanks to the fact that scholars demand of themselves more. They need to know more, and each turn involves some change of method and so it requires supplementary knowledge in the education of the scholar. Thus from generation to generation one has to learn more, and the more so when some reform is needed.
Is it not so that today we demand from those matriculating from secondary school to have more knowledge than a mediaeval scholar had or could have had? The difference in volume in knowledge is enormous, but this speaks nothing about its quality. No matriculating student considers himself to be a scholar and the wisdom of mediaeval scholars continues to constitute the basis for his current much multiplied knowledge. The knowledge of the most eminent historians of the XVIIth c. appears very meagre to us today. This does not belittle them in our eyes, but could we today treat seriously a historian whose overall knowledge would not be higher than that of those former masters? He would be considered backward. We are in such a situation today that we have to increase substantially the volume of our knowledge if we are not to cause backwardness in the field of our favoured science, namely to history.
The overestimation of specialization may lead to a dangerous decline. We need necessarily turn energetically against the hegemony of this approach in historical science since it has already led to absurdity by its exclusiveness. We have specializations within specializations! Since one is considered a greater scholar the more detailed is one’s speciality, we have reached the situation that a hero’s biography is too wide a topic, so there appear specialists on his youth, on his childhood, and on his old age, exclusive specialists who do not dare make a single step outside their very narrow specialization because this would deprive them of the title of an arch-scholar. A situation is reached that a historian will not take into his hand a book the topic of which is 50 years or even less before or after the times of his ultra-specialization.
The principle has been set that one specialist is not interested in the work of another. Each one is “a helm, sail and ship onto oneself”4. As a result they not only have no clue about the state of historical science but they proclaim loudly that they have no interest in an overall view. The result is that a “truly” eminent historian is not interested in history.
Such specialization (I continue to speak about the exclusive one) hung in the air, without any links to anything, does not therefore contribute really to the development of the science. As a rule it restricts itself to the establishment of facts, thus it stops at the first level of historical endeavour and is unable to move further. These are not historians but story-tellers, apprentices of the historical profession. They will not be able to enter a wider arena of interwoven numerous facts and in such extensive material they would be lost as in a maze. If someone stayed for a longer period of time in this restricted mental sphere he will find it difficult later to move out into the light.
The curse of story-telling reaches even innocents. We have historians, able to work in various periods and everywhere in a professional manner, but they make chopped-up mincemeat out of each topic. Sometimes even the works of some historians are such that they simply ask for conclusions, as for a sum of all the contributions of a single author – but he himself is incapable of doing this.
In the scientific climate of modern historical research there lies something, that prevents a full development of abilities. Historians stop at the point of critically presenting and describing a fact, after which they will proceed at the most to the search for the “causal relationships between events”. (They will never consider their finality.) However, if we wish to move from story-telling to true history we need to determine the historical coordinates (if I may be allowed to borrow a term from analytical geometry) of an event, its place in the course of history - but for this one has to know the overall picture.
A historian should learn history throughout all his life. Unfortunately the majority forget what they had known at the last exam. Specialists should stop moving alone and ignoring one another and the situation would brighten up leading to invigorating progress. If at least, they would read one another! To start with that may prove difficult, but I assure that one can become accustomed to this. By ignoring one another ultra-specialists are increasingly restricting their field of knowledge, as if this was their objective, hoping to be an ignoramus in history except for one’s own niche, as minute as possible. And this niche is often studied without understanding the wider picture, often senselessly, deprived of a historical background, as if studying loose words picked up from some sentence, ignoring or even not knowing the context. By working in this manner one gradually loses this or that of the method itself, since when the subject matter is restricted it is not possible to use all the facets of historical method, all the tools initially learned at University seminars. Tools that are not used get rusty. Thus not infrequently it has to be said with sadness that there is a decline of even the single method that a whole army of historians use, namely the critical analysis of sources and the critical profiting from them.
The decline is all the more fatal, because this method, even if well mastered, does not suffice. This is evident in these historians who through their own example combat excessive specialization and as if intentionally constantly move to new themes. This leads to an accumulation of monographs, articles and fragmentary contributions without ever wondering about any link between them. Each study represents a separate kingdom for itself – whereas in history everything is connected with everything else. Historians are more and more losing the ability to orient themselves within history.
Ultra-specialists have weighed negatively by their pretensions on the scales of scientific endeavour. We do not condemn them because we are all responsible to some extent for this. It is not my intention in these deliberations to hurt anyone but I only hope to prevent the derailment of the trend towards exclusive specialization. Looking at things as it were from a higher observation point, I wish to lend a hand to those who are losing their way and I wish to serve with good advice.
Times are changing and they move in the direction of progress as long as it is recognized that there is a need for further efforts so as to fulfil the needs of the current period. The education of historians must improve, and yet we are so far behind!
The general education of the Polish intelligentsia consisted in the acquaintance with literature as the foundation of intellectual development. This was the result of the specific situation we were in after the partition of Poland [1772-1795 and it lasted till 1918]. This has ended but the young were not given any new foundations and as a result the minds of Polish youth became wild and somewhat empty. In my view geography should be made the foundation of a general education for the new historical period and accordingly regulations in this direction should be introduced into schools of all types. There is no need to justify the thesis that history cannot bypass geography. We have historians who are exemplarily well versed in this, as a result of which we have a good development of historical geography. It would be very useful for every historian to be aware of new methods in geography and to enter more deeply into this or that field of geography. However the comment made above about adding geography to general education at the cost of literature does not pertain to historians. These should not have anything reduced. Among the majority of the Polish population there was perhaps too much literature, but this does not concern historians. For him not only is knowledge of Polish literature essential but also of universal literature. How often great poetry is linked with deep knowledge, even integral knowledge!
The history of literature would gain much were it attractive to historians. In literary works there are rich political strata not utilized sufficiently. It is not known who has had more influence on public opinion, politicians or men of letters? The problem arises – can politicians manage without writers? Political history has to be embedded in the realm of mottos and opinions.
Closer contact would be needed with philology and in particular with linguistics.
Many a problem in the history of clan and tribal organization can be resolved by very interesting investigations into the relationships between speech and the origin of languages. The change of language by a given people represents a historical problem of the first order. Is it not so that the major part of the history of Asia Minor, Central Asia and India consists in changes and exchanges of language? This problem concerns Europe also though on a smaller scale. The historian will point out to the philologists that besides the division of languages according to their grammar one has to recognize another division, viz., the lexicographic, because people who can understand each other are closer to each other even if they use different grammars. A historical systematization of peoples according to their speech similarities based on vocabularies yields different results than divisions according to grammar. It would be useful to look at the issue from a new point of view, that is, the historical.
This is associated with the history of a language together with the problem of the relationship between the spoken and the written language, i.e. between common and literary language, together with the issue of spelling. The voice of historians on the subject should be heard, but first they must acquaint themselves with this issue having a primary significance in the history of a nation.
Among view points and slogans what could be more important than religion? Religion is the most public of all issues. Historians should know well the history of religions, but what do we see instead? How many are able do distinguish between Lutherans and Calvinists? How many serious mistakes arise from the mixing of humanism with Protestantism! As a minimum a Polish historian should know well what is Catholicism.
But one has to study even more, much more, wishing to pursue the historical vocation in our days.
How can one explain the history of states without engaging in the study of states? This must include the historical comparison of statehoods functioning in various countries and times. Without having this knowledge political history will be deficient. It requires a serious restructuring because it is necessary to introduce into these investigations more order and clarity.
A historian should at the same time be a lawyer, at least to some, not too meagre, extent. The encyclopaedia of law, the knowledge of Roman and feudal law, an overview of the science of statehood and the study of administration, together with elements of the philosophy of law – all of this should belong to the obligatory university curriculum for students of historical sciences.
I am not suggesting that the future historian should burden himself with the full program of the faculty of law. It would suffice if he would acquaint himself with all that is scientific in this faculty not caring at all about the paragraphs! Study consists in the search for Truth, and there is less and less of this starting from the third year in law courses. A collection of regulations in itself is not a manifestation of any truth, because truth cannot be dependent on regulations, on some dispositions of authority. Lectures needed for the practicing of legal professions could be changed into scientific ones and it would become possible to extract from them something of scientific value, if the comparative method were to be introduced, particularly in a historical manner, but this is not an easy task. A whole team of learned men would have to devote their whole lives to establish a foundation for such a branch of knowledge. The study of paragraphs includes unfortunately such elements that cannot in any way be changed into a science.
The whole part of legal studies dealing with paragraphs is of no interest to the historian. But topics dealing with the history of law and political sciences will throw a new light on the study of history. Administration is a typical example because to a large extent it demonstrates as if a cross-section the kind and level of civilization. However the professors of law are so burdened with the obligatory study of paragraphs that they have no time to explain what administration should be like. Should we compare various methods of administering states showing where and when a method operated, which one was better and which one worse that would offer an interesting scientific topic, one that would engage the historian more than anything else5.Historians should call with a loud voice for a revival of the philosophy of law, and they themselves could contribute to this with their own work. Historical investigations conducted multilaterally, or at least as multilaterally as possible, cannot fail to encounter frequently problems belonging to philosophy of law.
Everywhere legal studies are linked with the study of social economy i.e. with the so called political economics. This science does not contain a legal component, but it includes much historical material. It has been generated from deduction and it flourished until it reached a dead end and discovered that reality has ignored its “laws”. The school known as historical took up the writing of monographs following the inductive method but it has not got beyond the collection of materials. It is time for historians to revive this important science giving it a new period of grandeur.
Perhaps the time is close when our successors will wonder how it was possible to arrive at a historical view-point concerning a given generation (not to mention whole periods) not knowing the material conditions of existence at the time in question. This topic shows up even in the history of literature. Where did writers find income for their everyday needs and from what social class did they come from. This is a topic that awaits its investigators. Did elaborate dedications and panegyrics build up characters?
For the study of social issues and directly for the study of social structure knowledge of economics is essential. For example, we are aware of the fact that in the XVIIth c. as a result of the decline of towns, villages became overpopulated. What were sons of village folk to do when there was not enough work for them in the farms and there was no work to be found beyond the family village? What a school of idleness and all its consequences! Are not the issues of depopulation or overpopulation central to the history of any country? These could be only partial or general, pertaining to some region or some profession only. Is not the strength of a state dependent primarily on the growth in the number of economic units, i.e. on the number of people who are economically independent? Many similar issues could be referred to and all would be strictly historical. We should therefore aim at having historians able to cope with them, so that a whole school of historians properly educated in both fields who would be a authorities also among economists would be formed. And every historian without exception should be educated in economics.
The extent to which economics is a historical science can be seen from the fact that there was a prehistoric economics; a topic, economists did not suspect. Furthermore, the historical method has no proof for the existence of the matriarchate, of original communism or of totemism. On the contrary, it proves that there have never been any traces of these.
There is no prehistory without the knowledge of ethnology [cultural anthropology]. A historian may bypass ergology, but humanistic ethnology is essential for him, that is the study of relationships between individuals. Ethnology proper (without ergology [the study of work patterns]) represents so narrow a field that a historian is able to master it within one year.
The study of anthropology will require a similar effort. Considering the topic in a strict sense, that is, as a study of the somatic varieties of the human kind does not go much beyond the study of races. It is however a very greedy science, which likes to make claims de omnibus et quibusdam aliis [about all and sundry], but only on the basis of the study of bones and muscles; on such grounds instructions are prepared for schooling and this science is even willing to work out a study of statehoods. But it does not profit from another direction which would be very natural, that is, that of anthropogeography. These two sciences could easily coalesce. History at every moment needs information from anthropogeography, and even to a large extent it has to base itself on it, otherwise it is deficient. A large number of topics beginning with the question of the influence of climate on man all the way up to geopolitics inspire historical research and offer grounds for it.
Some time ago it was believed that the fate of humanity depends primarily on the state of science, and that science enjoys a constant progress. Quite the opposite view was held about morality as if it had no potential for development representing as if a constant element. This error entered also the field of historical studies. It will be easily noticed and corrected by a historian working independently in the field of ethics, or at least having an independent knowledge about it. Ethics also has its history, no less vibrant than science, and equally with it, it has even more extensive possibilities of development. Of all the “totalities” perhaps only the totality of ethics will remain.
Ethical concepts make their imprint on communal life much more strongly than scientific ones. For a historian it is more difficult to understand history without considering changes in ethics, than it is without knowledge of the history of science.
All these wide studies will not however give to the historian a capacity to formulate syntheses if he will be deprived of philosophical training. Story-tellers even like to pride themselves of this deficiency, but increasingly frequently we find among authors of monographs a tendency to supplement this lack. Here and there one still encounters the view that the slightest use of philosophical thinking with respect to some historical topic is considered as a manifestation of weakness of the mind. This however is increasingly rare and one recognises in this backward minds. There are still people who are proud of not knowing something. Let us hope that these kind of minds will stop lowering and ridiculing our scholarship. So long as one carries within oneself such a philosophical emptiness one shall be incapable of arriving at a synthesis in any science not to mention the most extensive one.
A philosophical grasping of issues (besides strong personalism) is a condition for creative originality. Where a philosophical approach to a subject is lacking there fragmentary casuistry may appear but there will be no chance for an overall view due to the absence of a scientific perspective. The work of the scholar then has no plan; it never asks from where and where to? One works in an accidental manner not knowing exactly why and what for? Such scholarship is as it were deprived of knowledge, because knowledge is attained through the sum of relationships between different sciences. Having no grasp of the totality, it is difficult to discover a synthesis, but it does not follow that it does not exist.
A historian should be able to distinguish the essence of things from phenomena. This is a modest demand pertaining to introductory philosophical knowledge. Story-telling is concerned only with phenomena and considers as “non-scientific” any investigations into the nature of things of which the historical phenomenon is only an external manifestation.
There is nothing wrong in the fact that there are some who limit their work to the sphere of “phenomena”. Ne sutor ultra crepidam [The shoemakers perspective does not go beyond the sandal]. Their contributions can be of great value and obviously supply the necessary foundation for the synthesiser. They should however be aware of the fact that historical science must have also higher levels.
One can reach them only by constant learning, without end! Such scholarship, which seems to be based on the dislike for learning as a condition for “the love of science” has to be abandoned.
Ignorance tries to excuse itself with straw claiming there is no room for a scientific synthesis. What they cannot do themselves they claim to be nonexistent. Frequently thought that is void of directions conceals itself behind the assumed privileges of specialization.
I claim therefore with the utmost firmness that to be a historian one has to learn more than is practiced today. I am not asking too much. If I could have done it, so others will be able to do.
I end here my comments about the abuses coming from specialization. In no way are they derogatory towards serious specialists whose works form the wall on which the stronghold of knowledge is built; for these also are of the opinion that a delimitation of the field of study does not have to entail a limitation of the field for the progress of thought. They will understand that an increase in requirements is something obvious because it is caused by the progress of time itself; whoever objects to such progress in fact propagates stagnation.
Stagnation is the work of exclusive specialists. They know not what they are doing. They do not participate even passively in the progress of knowledge. The vast majority of them do not even know what is happening in the great world of science, that once more the days of great syntheses are approaching, a new period of integral knowledge, even a new summa6 is in prospect.
We ask in this book whether history demonstrates any laws to which it is subject. The question is not new, and natural scientists have long ago decided that history is not a science, since it does not lead to the discovery of any such laws. Historians have admitted that there are no laws in history but in spite of this they still have tried to prove that history is science. Having now an improved method it is appropriate that this problem will be revived, and so I took up the initiative, in the hope that I shall have followers who will want to correct me.
I have never forejudged the results of these investigations being always prepared to accept that it may turn out that history has no laws. German scholars already for some time now have been receiving dispositions from their government to work out a scientific basis for given projects of the government; no other science exists any more in Germany; but then no one today  considers German universities as members of the European scientific community. We still hold to old notions. Thus I have considered the issue uncertain until inductive historical science would give an answer, and inductive investigations take time and effort. Of course the issue will never be fully exhausted. But it is my ambition to approach to the Truth, perhaps with a slow step but a sure and safe one. I suspect that I was privileged to find a new way towards Truth in general and towards a new development of humanistic studies, and particularly towards the flourishing of history; I would primarily wish that this would contribute to the development of historical sciences in Poland.
I see this book as a sort of vault covering my science on civilizations, a final stage of what I was able to achieve; something that with the limited possibilities I have today I was still able to do.7
The not too distant future will manifest whether in undertaking this work I proved to be an epigone or a precursor of a new era. I am of course aware that this work of mine, as the work of any scientist, even if made most meticulously, winds its way among deficiencies and shortcomings.
In no science is systematics ever final and determined for all time. This is so because reality is seldom fully in agreement with the scientific scheme. Always there is more diversity in real life than in a book. In spite of the fact that schemes do not ever give an absolute picture they are none the less essential so as to find orientation in life, to know whence one came, where one is located and where one is going. In spite of the fact that a scheme does not represent a figure fully reflecting reality, without it reality is frequently even less understandable.
In fact the whole value of a scientific work depends upon whether it will inspire new investigators and stimulate a scientific movement around its subject. Scientific achievements consist in generating new scientific problems. Were it not so one would not be able to send anything to the printers because is anything ever completely finished?
Thus also this time I shall follow the thought of Hugo KoBB taj whose words act as a stimulant: “Let us begin not worrying who will be correcting us later”.
I shall follow the method of Descartes. It is false to claim that this philosopher preached only deduction. He was very proficient in using this method but he also used induction and it is in this versatility that lays his greatness. I have already pointed out earlier (Koneczny 1935, 19-20; 1962, 37-38) that Descartes derived inductive conclusions from the existence of peoples “having varying customs”. In his Discours de la Méthode he advises that each difficulty should be split up into as many problems as one can find it possible to solve. In the present book I do nothing else; so, suum cuique [to each according to his merit], I pay homage to Descartes ... as to one who used the inductive method.
With the greatest fidelity to induction no sensible person will ever delete deduction from his scientific apparatus. Without deduction the human mind would not exist! But without induction it would be only partial! I stress that my science of civilizations is inductive, that laws of history have to be discovered strictly by the inductive method, but this does not mean that I would consider deduction as useless. I restrict it to a supplementary role because I believe that the subject at hand requires that the main method used here be inductive.
In the mind of Descartes there was one feature determining his true vocation as a scholar. Despite despicable conditions of life, he always did what he considered necessary and did not allow himself to be distracted from pursuing his scientific obligations. He was thus religious. Is it not so that religious feelings can constitute a background for scientific work? All work can be sanctified and thus scientific work also.
For example, a number of studies on civilizations have been conducted over many years knowing full well that it is doubtful they will ever see the light of day. It was audacity indeed to undertake in the Polish conditions something so wide, on such a colossal scale and in particular in view of the total isolation of the author in the Polish “scientific community”. One works however primarily for oneself, simply from scientific curiosity, to discover something, to learn something. With the scholarly vocation there is linked a passion to constantly follow things, facts and interactions, to seek causal and intentional relationships, to embrace issues and symptoms of life within some systematic pattern, so as to be able at the end to see a reward in the discovery of at least one scientific law.
Frequently one has the impression that scientific work remains in association with some great Issue, an Issue of all issues.
Since one thinks of eternal things (for example in the context of history) thus one is concerned with the discovering of some fraction of the Eternal Truth. Is it not so that scientific Truth is a temporal manifestation of some supernatural Truth and cannot scientific studies be an expression of religious life? The same has place in religious art and church music. A suspicion develops that the making of some scientific discovery grants the scholar happiness, because in this there is involved some approaching to absolute truth. Can there be any more noble happiness?
Without this background many aspects in the lives of scholars would be difficult to explain. Who wishes to sneer, let him do so, but scientific inquiries remain the one, essential interest in life. All other considerations can be sacrificed for them and they never end, they never exhaust themselves; on the contrary, this passion becomes ever stronger. Thus one may admit the hypothesis that in this phenomenon lays a bridge towards some continuation in the further life.
This is how I understood and understand the service to science.
1 [Reference to a Christian legend about 7 brothers who escaping from the persecutions of emperor Decius, hid in a cave and slept there for 373 years, to be miraculously awakened to life at the time of Theodosius who was a Christian.]
2 Anche io son pittore! [Also I am a painter!] Beginning with “The Politics of the Teutonic Knights in the years 1389 and 1390” (Akademia Umiejentnosci 1889) all the way to “The Case of Prince Geldry 1389” and “Vitoldiana’”(Ateneum Wilenskie 1931) etc., I would be able list titles of similar works of mine by the dozens. I need to legitimate myself with this so that no one would be able to say, that I act against specialization and specialists! This is my family!
3 A physician, theologian, economist, poet and ... astronomer.
4 [A well known verse from a poem by Adam Mickiewicz]
6 [Reference to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas]
7 [Here it should be mentioned that Koneczny, working during the German occupation wrote this book in fine handwriting on the insides of old envelopes. No other paper was then available. He was 81 at the time.]
Copyright © Feliks Koneczny and Maciej Giertych 2018
Version: 5th January 2018