I truly enjoyed Scott P. Richert’s excellent review of Remembered Past: John Lukacs on History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge: A Reader (“Truth of Blood and Time,” December 2005)—a compendium of some of Professor Lukacs’s most insightful work.
As noted by Mr. Richert, ISI, the publisher of this tome, has produced a terrific primer on the work and thought of a most original and erudite writer. Remembered Past invites its reader to sample the vast array of subject matter tackled by Professor Lukacs over the years—from musings on Henry Adams and Agnes Repplier (one of America’s finest essayists) to the development of Professor Lukacs’ magnum opus, Historical Consciousness. Originality and erudition marks his life’s work.
Mr. Richert’s review of this valuable compendium crystallizes many of the critical yet provocative themes Professor Lukacs has invested a lifetime expounding: history as a form of thought, the historicity of human cognition, and, most interesting for me, the ever-increasing intrusion of mind into matter—just to name a few.
With his lucid and engaging prose style that Chronicles readers have come to enjoy from his Rockford Files, Mr. Richert demonstrates his ability as a leading interpreter and expositor of a Lukacs-Barfield inspired form of historical philosophy. It rests on the recognition that the expression of truth—for which philosophy was supposed to serve—is affected by time, by place, by civilization. Mr. Richert, quite aptly, offers an insight that Professor Lukacs would no doubt underscore: that “life itself is threatened whenever we begin to separate ourselves from our history, to erase our memory . . . to believe that truth is universal . . . not of this world of flesh and blood and time.” For Lukacs, Barfield, and now Richert, historical philosophy rests on the commonsense recognition that historical thinking has entered our very blood; it is a form of thought that may be applied to every kind of human experience, and, as a form of thought, it is larger than science.
Much like his intellectual forerunner, Jacob Burckhardt, Professor Lukacs has not sought to cobble together a system that would establish abstract laws governing the patterns of history. As illustrated in the contents of Remembered Past and distilled in Mr. Richert’s review, Professor Lukacs’s interests focus on the concrete historicity of knowledge, of consciousness, of thought.
In the past, I have chided Mr. Richert to begin writing an authoritative work on Professor Lukacs’s unique contribution to the exploration of historical consciousness and the explications of historical philosophy. With the release of Remembered Past, coupled with Mr. Richert’s evident mastery of the subject matter, my original chiding has been elevated to a friendly admonishment—for the Burke-Paine debate could be but a single chapter within this soon-to-be-written work!
—Michael J. Keegan