Qualitative Time: Historians and the Notion of “Periodization.”

Historians are a brilliant lot, but sometimes they do odd things.  One of those oddish behaviors aims at constructing a kind of timekeeping that borrows from the socio-economic “qualities” or attributes of an era.  This “period” of time then receives a name, say, the time of Renewal or “Renaissance,” for those who love French cooking.

One could name periods of time (eras) by any number of different kinds of qualities.  In different fields of history, say “art history,” they refer to the “Romantic Period,” while those less concerned with cultural history might simply dub this “the 19th century,” or “Industrial Revolution.”  Finance people think of this as the era of “the Unstoppable Rise of the Forward Contract” (before they had “futures,” they had “forward contracts”).

Periodization, the art and science of naming specific periods of time with historically-credible labels, began early on with historians. At the first, they used empires to label periods, while imperial Presidencies helped with this labeling process after WW II — in the era of Postmodern historiography.  I am hoping next for the era of the rise of the imperial historian. Remember, historians always have the last laugh, and they control the power of collective memory.  So be nice.  Or you could end up a robber Baron extreme with multiple psychoses, and a horrific personality.

But let us return to the fascinating idea that one might keep time by labeling specific eras in historical writing — this keeps time by noting the salient features (qualities), rather than by numbering a sequence of time units like years (e.g. this happened in 1492).  Quality versus Quantity. Sometimes an event conveying a quality can even serve to begin a timeline — for example, the event we call the beginning of writing systems. Historians account the beginning of history as the same thing as (coterminous with) the beginning of writing.  The same is true with check-cashing.  You simply cannot bounce a check until you learn to write.  “History” without writing is called “pre-history,” an era when things were run by a bunch of illiterate Neanderthals who couldn’t do a damn thing write.  They invented the DMV.

Different disciplines will necessarily have an outlook that views history differently, each from the others, since each field of inquiry has a distinct value system, placing its work as “central to the development of the human potential.” Logicians could easily labels eras as “Aristotelian, Platonist, Nominalist, Scholastic, Predicate calculus/ Set Theory, Logical Positivism, Computational logic, the rise of Mathematical Logic,” and the like.  Yet this construction of “eras” seems in no way arbitrary, but roots itself in very important features of actual historical, and socio-cultural trends and event-complexes (e.g. “Civil War”).

It does raise some further, interesting questions, however.  If one might label eras variously, what about the ways in which the scholarly past has viewed time (Empires often conscribe the “Assyrian Period” or “Neo-Chaldean” in older textbooks); or some other important or foundational question — how we view “government,” or “math systems,” or religions.  We now live in a post-Christian era (on my view).

Again, on my view, the history of humanity is a history of a very specific kind.  It is a history of progress, the continuous, if bouncy and uneven, growth and development of wisdom and understanding — of many different kinds of cultural activities, from logic and science to art and literature.  What if, instead of using the art of periodization to indicate this progress (which is fine by me), we instead created a math and logic system that shows or accounts for this progress?  Okay — what does that mean?

For example, the growth of humans in a specific population occurs by a kind of doubling process that can be described (back to numbers again) in terms of a geometric progression and a “geometric mean.”  The population bean-counters already know this shorthand.  I have begun a “hobby-like” quest to see if I can combine both relatively simply math and relatively simply logic into a hybrid system that accounts for human history’s innovative and progressive trends.  I am not as pessimistic as are many on this idea.  People often follow in the collective rational kinds of patterns that individuals do not, and some of these patterns might escape our notice for some time.  Population growth, money growth, the growth of the value of real estate, cost of life insurance, number of people involved in charity, the administration of justice, number of patents granted (of specific kinds), and many other markers can be used to study the value and growth of human progress. I believe that the correct approach to this subject, trimmed and managed by the principles of the LON (light of nature), will in fact to some extent, show a rational set of patterns we can identify as rationality describable.  Moore’s Law expemplifies this tendency, and shows a kind of rationality to human (cultural and technological) development, or at least certain aspects of cultural development.

I shall try to keep readers up to date of my adventure in looking to this or that kind of math of logic, and how the LON inflects this or that application of it to describe the history of our progress.  This math-logic system (prob. a hybrid) will attempt a first — show the rational development of “math over time” or logic as it unfolds over time as human progress.  This effort will prove a “dynamic math-logic” that unfolds over time — transchronic math-logic system: that shows the logic of progress — without periodization.  If you think it would take a miracle to get it right, remember this.  On the Sophic, Ethical Monotheist view, three miracles form the necessary preconditions for our being here (and doing anything scholarly).  The LON is thus itself an immediate creation of our beloved, and most excellent King.  The whole enchilada is miraculous to begin with.  I still cannot get over this.  Life is a miracle (transcendent), and wisdom is its crown and glory.

Periodization, move over.


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