A philosophical attempt to write a general world history according to a plan if nature that aims at a perfect civic association of mankind must be considered possible and even helpful to this intention of nature.
It is a strange and apparently paradoxical project to write a history according to an idea as to how the world should develop if its development is to have an appropriate rational end. It would seem that such a purpose could only produce a novel, but this idea might yet be usable if one could assume that nature and even the play of human freedom does not proceed without plan and intended end. Even though we are too shortsighted to perceive the secret mechanism of nature's plan an otherwise planless conglomeration of human activities could be used as a guide when presented as a system. If one starts with Greek history as the one through which all older and contemporary history has been preserved or at least certified, one may trace the influence of Greek history upon the formation and malformation of the body politic of the Roman people who devoured the Greek state. Again, if one traces down to our time the influence of Rome upon the Barbarian who destroyed the empire; if one then periodically adds the history of the state of other peoples as knowledge of them has come to us through these enlightened nations; then one will discover a regular procession of improvements in constitutional government in our part of the world which will probably give laws to all other states eventually. By concentrating primarily on the civic constitution and its laws and on the relations among states, because both served to raise nations, their arts and sciences, one may discover a guide to explain the chaotic play of human affairs. ... Such a justification of nature, or perhaps one should say of providence, is a not unimportant reason for selecting a particular outlook for observing the world. For what good is it to praise the majesty and wisdom of creation in the realm of nature, which is without reason, and to recommend contemplating them if that part of the great arena of supreme wisdom that above all contains that purpose, namely, the history of mankind, remains as a constant objection because its spectacle compels us to turn away our eyes in disgust and as we despair of ever encountering therein a completed rational end causes us to expect such perfection only in another world? It would be a misinterpretation of my intention to maintain that a wished to displace the work on true empirical history by this idea of a universal history which contains a principle a priori. This idea is only a notion of what a philosophical mind, who would have to be very knowledgeable in history, could attempt from another standpoint. Furthermore, the complexity, in many ways praiseworthy, with which the history of an age is now composed, naturally causes everyone to worry as to how our later descendants are going to cope with the burden of history that, after some centuries, we are going to leave them. Without doubt they will care for the history of the most ancient period, for which the documents would have long perished, only from the standpoint that interests them, namely, what nations and governments have contributed toward world government or how they have damaged it. We may be concerned with this and may also consider that the ambition of rulers and their servants should be directed toward the only means that could secure a glorious reputation for them in later ages. These considerations may also offer a small reason for attempting such a philosophical history.