Philosophy of History

Dr Meade McCloughan

One of the distinctive features of much modern European philosophy has been reflection on the meaning of human history. How should we, as historical beings, understand ourselves and our place in history? Are we moving forward, and if so, how and to what? Or should we rather be looking back, to understand where we are now and how we got here? Or is the whole project misguided? This course will consider how some of the most important thinkers of the last 250 years, including Kant, Hegel, Marx , Nietzsche, Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno and Foucault, have asked and answered these questions. The course will focus on a selection of key texts, showing how they cite, criticize and complicate each other. Given the centrality of history to nearly all the philosophers concerned, the course will also provide a useful introduction to important strands within modern European philosophy.

A course pack containing extracts from the texts to be discussed will be given to students at the beginning of the course (and also made available electronically).


  1. Philosophical history in the enlightenment and counter-enlightenment
  2. Kant: universal history
  3. Hegel: speculative history
  4. Marx: historical materialism
  5. Nietzsche: the uses and disadvantages of history for life
  6. Nietzsche: genealogy and the critique of progress
  7. Heidegger: existential historicity
  8. Benjamin: messianic history
  9. Adorno: history as catastrophe?
  10. Foucault: historicity, genealogy and "the end of man"
25th June 2015