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What can a theory of world history do for me? 

Most persons who are interested in world history want to know about a specific period, place, or individual. For instance, they are Civil War buffs or specialists in the early history of rock 'n roll. The book, Five Epochs of Civilization, is different. Here one gains a sense of the total sweep of history. Why should anyone care about this? Because world history can give a sense of individual purpose rooted in fact.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German romantic poet and novelist, "posited that all of us seek answers to three big questions in life: What is the story of all mankind? What is the story of my time? And what story is mine alone?" In other words, what is the world of living history and where do I fit into this world?

Five Epochs of Civilization provides an answer to the question: What is the story of all mankind? It contains a new theory of world history based on changing civilizations. Each civilization is associated with an epoch in world history; it is characterized by particular mix of institutions within society and a dominant cultural (communication) technology which has recently emerged. It is the book's contention that four such civilizations have arisen since the days of the Sumerian and Egyptian city states of the 4th millennium B.C. and that a fifth is on the horizon. Hence the title: Five Epochs of Civilization.

These civilizations are not confined to a particular region on earth but are truly worldwide. Alternatively seen, they are stages in the growth of a single world civilization. This provides a basis for a world history - not a history which glorifies any particular people or nation but one which views world history as a creation story affecting everyone.

This scheme of history has several advantages. First, it gives meaning to events and experiences in society, both present and past. It makes history interesting. World history is not a dry set of facts to be memorized but a process which has created the (human) world in which we live. This world is a living social organism, larger than ourselves. People will naturally want to know about this.

A second reason is that any scheme of knowledge worth its salt offers a basis for predicting the future. The past does give an indication of what the future will bring if our understanding of the past is correct. In this case, it is because civilizations are living organisms with a life cycle. To know the life cycle of civilizations that have advanced to a mature stage suggests how our own unfinished civilization might develop in the future. In a similar manner, the lives of our parents or grandparents provide an analogy useful in understanding our own lives.

Five Epochs of Civilization purports to provide historical knowledge. Knowledge in any field is based on the perception of patterns (or regular occurrences) within its phenomena. What is the pattern of world history? Is it a single story or is it a story with significant turning points? What set of stories give meaningful coherence to humanity's memory of the past? This is the "knowledge" that individuals, hopefully, will receive from Five Epochs of Civilization.

To become a useful part of human culture, a theory of history must be studied, tested and criticized, and modified to fit the facts. The purpose of this web site is to get this particular theory out in the open. It is translated into several languages to break the confines of the English-speaking world. Once such an audience is assembled, whatever comes of the discussion has the potential to belong to all peoples. It is the particular task of peoples now in all parts of the world to build a universal culture. For we belong to a humanity that is coming together in our time.

Therefore, please look to the wholeness of this theory. Do not simply cannibalize parts of the web site for the information contained. Permission is, of course, granted to cannibalize; but this would be to take only a part of the history while ignoring the more valuable part. A better outcome would be to participate in a dialogue with other seekers of historical knowledge. Build a community of truth seekers.

Students of world history in high schools and colleges could benefit from this type of knowledge. So could adults pursuing nonacademic careers who are interested in deeper understanding of trends in the world. This web site offers a forum for accomplishing such things. World history is more than a course - an obstacle to be surmounted on the way to gaining credentials for a career. It is a way to tap into humanity's collective experience.

The task of developing this knowledge is itself an important historical event in our time. Be one who recognizes the opportunity at hand. I believe that the pursuit of historical knowledge will, in time, become an important economic undertaking. Humanity must turn to pursuits which enrich human life with minimal degradation of the environment. Our very survival as a species requires creative adjustments of this sort.

How will such activities be funded? What organizations will give them structure? All this needs to be worked out in the generation to come. And so, the discussion of world history involves self-reflection as well as consideration of history proper. We lovers of history must find our own place in the world.

See discussion of personal identity at http://www.identityindependence.com.

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to: Goethe's Three Questions to: The Wrong Kind of History

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10/6/05 http://worldhistorysite.com/doforme.html