From time to time our tiny intellectual worlds are simultaneously shaken by big ideas – ideas that, however big they are, have their expiration-date. Such is the case with the idea of the impossibility to find life outside language. In this essay, I picture what I think is the current state of the philosophy of history after the so-called linguistic turn and what I think the direction is where the philosophy of history might be headed by taking into account the important job done by linguistic theories. I regard the abandonment of epistemology and the arrival to the realm of aesthetics as a point of no return, and conclude that a new philosophy of history has to have an aesthetic character. However, due to the omnipotence of language I also detect a narrow constructive potential in linguistic theories and argue that a new philosophy of history has to have the dual task of searching for life outside language while remaining in the realm of aesthetics. As a next step, I identify Frank Ankersmit’s notion of an individual historical experience as a move towards the fulfillment of this dual task. Finally, because Ankersmit’s experience remains mute, in the second half of the essay I attempt to present an outline of the possibility of a fruitful cooperation between the philosophy of history and phenomenology. More precisely, I am trying to synchronize Ankersmit’s notion of an individual historical experience with László Tengelyi’s phenomenological experiments with experience and let Tengelyi speak where Ankersmit “stops talking”. As a result, with the help of Tengelyi, an aperture can be found in language through which experience might worm its way. Due to this fissure, experience might be regarded as an invisible driving force behind linguistic expressions, and thus behind historical writing.
In recent years the age-old question “what is the human?” has acquired a new acuteness and novel dimensions. In introducing the special issue on “Historical Thinking and the Human”, this article argues that there are two main trends behind the contemporary “crisis of human”: ecological transformations (related to human-induced climate change and planetary environmental challenges), and technological ones (including advancements in human enhancement, biotechnology and artificial intelligence). After discussing the respective anthropocenic and technoscientific redefinitions of the human, the paper theorizes three elements in an emerging new historicity of the human: first, the move from a fixed category to a dynamic and indeterminate concept, considering the human as a lifeform in movement; second, the extent to which the human is conceived of in its relational dependence on various non-human agents, organic and non-organic; and third, the reconceptualization of the human not as one but as many, to comprehend that we cannot speak of human individuality in the classical biological sense. In the final part, the article addresses the consequences of the redefinition of the human for historical thinking. It makes the case for the need to elaborate a new notion of history – captured by the phrase “more-than-human history”, and attuned to an emerging planetary regime of historicity in which historical thinking becomes able to affirm multiple temporalities: digital, technoscientific, sociocultural, human, biological and anthropocenic. The article concludes by recognizing the necessity to venture into a new transdisciplinary knowledge economy, appropriate for making sense of the contemporary constellation of the entangled human, technological and natural worlds.