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Historical Consciousness

It is writing – “this linear alignment of signs” (Does Writing Have a Future?, 2011, p. 7) – that first produces historical consciousness. For unlike that which has merely occurred, the perception of events conceived as processes requires a consciousness capable of producing artificial traces. In this sense, history is “a function of writing and the consciousness that expresses itself in writing” (ibid., p. 8). Historical consciousness is thus based on thinking that is no longer cyclical, but rather linearly directed, “occurring in time that rushes from the past toward the future, passing through the present without stopping” (ibid., p. 20). History – the primacy of texts over images – begins with the invention of the alphabet, “in approximately 1500 BCE” (Krise der Linearität, 1992, p. 18; translated from the German), and ends with the successful “assault of mathematical consciousness on historical consciousness” (ibid., p. 22; translated from the German).

Just as the technical image is currently superseding the historical alphanumeric code, historical thinking will become a matter for machines: “History, and the mode of thought that produces history, is over.” (Does Writing Have a Future?, p. 59) In the future nothing will happen, because machines, in contrast to humans, are not alive. Though we are losing “nearly everything with which we identify” (Krise der Linearität, p. 40; translated from the German) as we lose historical thinking, the crisis underlying this loss can nonetheless be interpreted as an “experiment with a new imagination” (ibid.; translated from the German) and thereby overcome.

Original article by Martin Conrads

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historical_consciousness.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by