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By Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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That facts interest the historian, that they speak to the man of culture, that they may be taken up again in his own intentions as a historical subject-all this threatens historical knowledge with subjectivity but also promises it a superior objectivity, if only one succeeds in distinguishing between "comprehension" and arbitrariness and in determining the close relationship which our "metamorphoses" violate but without which they would be impossible. Let us, for example, attempt to understand the relationship between Protestantism and the capitalistiC spirit.

We are not able to make God save us. But the same anguish that we feel before that which we do not control, the same energy that we would expend to implement our salvation, even though we cannot do so, is expended in a worldly enterprise which depends on us and is under our control and which will become, even in Puritanism, a presumption of salvation. The terror of man in the face of a supernatural destiny over which he has no control weighs heavily upon the Puritan's activity in the world. By an apparent paradox, because he wishes to respect the infinite distance between God and man, he endows the useful and even the comfortable with dignity and religious meaning.

Is it perhaps the case that only successive generations ("generations appelantes," as Peguy called them) are in a position to see whether what has been brought about really deserved to be, to correct the deceptions of recorded history, and to reinstate other possibilities? Is our image of the past preceded only by sequences of events, which form neither a system nor even perspectives and whose truth is held in abeyance? Is it perhaps a definition of history to exist fully only through that which comes after, to be in this sense suspended into the future?

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