We can now define what Koneczny’s doctrine means in comparison with the previous5 doctrines of philosophy of history. We would be inclined to ascribe to Koneczny the following, merits.
Koneczny’s doctrine means a renunciation of any purely speculative philosophy of history; when the philosophy of history becomes a science of civilisations, it has to be an inductive science founded on the study of facts.
This is perhaps the only possible way to rescue the philosophy of history; to make it a philosophical science of history. Not only to rescue, but also to consolidate, by giving it a strictly defined sphere from which it cannot be expelled, and at the same time by giving it strong foundations. Otherwise, it would be quite a doubtful undertaking, to base the philosophy of history in such a way that its validity and even its right to exist could not be put in question. But it is not our purpose to investigate here whether the eternal question of the sense of history can receive at all a philosophical answer, or whether it is not answerable, or can find an answer only within the limits of a theology of history — if we are prepared to admit the possibility of such a science.
A clear application of the principle of induction involves a break with ominous apriorism; it means before all a decisive overcoming of aprioristic biologism in every form.
An impression became slowly established in the philosophy of history that the recognition of a plurality of civilisations is inseparably connected with a biologic and biologising view on these civilisations.6 It is Koneczny’s merit to have destroyed this illusion and to have separated from each other the two ideas, which for centuries had been continually treated as interconnected.
At the same time, the refreshing all-sided general examination of civilisations demonstrates the specific character of them as a spiritual domain; put by induction again and again into new light, it proves to be a kingdom of freedom. And in consequence, every possible form of determinism is for the philosophy of history fundamentally overcome.
Hence comes a conclusion that laws of history as previously conceived, laws of history which would somehow be analogous to the laws of nature, to the laws of physics or biological laws of organic life, cannot exist at all.
If there can be laws in history — they must be of a completely different nature.
It is true that in consequence of this the tasks of philosophy of history become much more complicated; but historical reality is complicated. It is impossible to say anything about it a priori; and in spite of Spengler’s great display of apparent refutation, induction shows undeniably that civilisations have each a different history. There is no compelling reason to believe that a civilisation must die and why she must die; the belief in such a necessity was only a biological apriorism. There is no “rhythm” in history. There are no cycles; there is no foundation for believing in these a priori, and induction shows decisively their non-existence. But all these disillusionments clear, a free field for a philosophy of history, consistently conceived as a discipline in humanities.
THE ONLY LAW OF HISTORY: CAUSALITY AND FINALITY
The civilisations struggle against each other. Each tries to dislodge the other. Only the understanding of the conflicts and rivalries between civilisations — and this is Koneczny’s principal thesis — gives a clue to universal history. There is, according to Koneczny, only one law of history in the sense of a general rule concerning historical facts and this is: “every civilisation, so long as it is viable, tries to expand; wherever there meet two civilisations which are able to live, they must struggle against each other. Every civilisation is on the offensive, so long as it is not dying. The struggle lasts until one of the two civilisations is destroyed; the mere occupation of a dominating position by one of the civilisations does not end the struggle”7.
A synthesis of civilisations does not exist and is not possible. The only thing which is possible — and history is rich in examples of it — is only a mechanical mixture of two or more civilisations, but its result is only chaos, barbarity, disintegration and cultural decadence, because such mixtures are a sin against the fundamental condition of the vitality of every civilisation, which is the law of harmony of existential categories. The norms which rule the life of a human group have to form a unity, they cannot contradict each other.
Only syntheses between subdivisions of the same civilisation are possible.
All so-called syntheses of civilisations are illusions. Again and again, from antiquity till the present time, have “syntheses of East and West” been tried in history; they were always unsuccessful, because their success was impossible. Because unavoidably the “law of laws” finds application in which Koneczny gathers together the final result of his studies: “one cannot be civilised in two different ways”.
This is nothing else but the practical application of the principle of harmony: one cannot detach elements from one civilisation and introduce them into a society belonging to a different civilisation. One can be civilised for instance in a Turanian way; but it is impossible to introduce principles and forms of Turanian civilisation into the Latin civilisation; they do not fit in here, in the same way as forms and principles of the West, introduced into the domains of other civilisations, act as elements of decomposition.
There is then also in Koneczny a principle of closedness or self-containedness of civilisations; but this is something quite different from the mechanical, strictly exteriorly considered separateness of the civilisations of Spengler. The compactness of Koneczny’s civilisation is something logical; it expresses the all-embracing character of a civilisation: each civilisation is a sum of forms and principles which are harmoniously combined and which form a system, and which cannot be separated from each other nor appear separately.
The cultural death which is caused by cultural mixture however is not a fatalistically unavoidable fate: there is no such fate for human communities, just as there is no such fate for individual men. There are only consequences of human acts. The decline of a civilisation is always possible, because at any time the causes can appear which bring it about. But even a civilisation’s decline, when already in full progress, can at any time be stopped: sanabiles Deus fecit nationes! Because — and this is the final meaning of Koneczny’s philosophy of history — the laws which rule history are, seen from the point of view of man placed in history, moral imperatives of duty and freedom. And the final solution of the riddle of history lies not in a law of necessity imposed by Nature, but in the law of moral freedom. And so, there is also progress in history; because morality is capable of progress. For the Latin civilisation this progress means a progressive widening of the spheres in which morality finds practical application; further and further new branches of morality become law.
In the light of these fundamental views Koneczny sees history and the present time. The chaotic condition of the humanity of times is for him a consequence of all the syntheses of incompatible civilisations which have been undertaken, in which mixtures were tried of elements of ethics, sociology, politics and spiritual life which were by nature incapable of mixing.