Welcome to my website! I am Wolfgang Leidhold, a professor at the University of Cologne. Here I’ll introduce you to my current project on the History of Experience and discuss how it evolved. (For the artistic part of my life see here and on my instagram-page: https://www.instagram.com/leidholdart/)
From the concept of experience
I first began dealing with the History of Experience when working on my dissertation on Francis Hutcheson and in my later works on the concept of experience. (Read more about my works related to the history of experience on the books and essays pages.)
Experience is the way we get in touch with reality. In other words, experience is conscious participation. There are many varieties of participation: through the senses, via the imagination, through self-awareness, thinking, meditation, etc. Thus, experience is a domain with multiple dimensions. That is to say, the domain of experience is like a forest with many different kinds of trees.
to the changing structure of experience
Eventually I discovered that humanity had not mastered all of these dimensions right from the start. Instead, the dimensions have evolved step by step over time. This discovery inspired me to explore the history of experience. Therefore, I wanted to know how the structure of experience has changed from deep history to the present day.
Finally, I found a total of eight changes. The first took place in the Paleolithic Age: the turn from unconscious information processing to conscious perception and imagination. And the most recent one was the discovery of the unconscious. In between there are six more experiential turns.
The forest of experience has been growing for thousands of years. So the ”History of Experience” is a study in the tribal history of human experience, its gradual growth, and its impact on human existence.
and its impact on human existence
These experiential turns affect all areas of human existence: the course of individual lives, of human history, the dynamics of culture, the evolution of political order, and of ecology For example, it was only the conscious use of a vivid imagination that allowed humans to create art since the Upper Paleolithic; and the conscious experience and training of creativity spawned the continuous growth of innovation that is characteristic of the culture of modernity.
So what’s next?
When looking at how the forest of experience has grown since the Paleolithic, we ask: Was the most recent change – the discovery of the unconscious – also the last transformation? Has the history of experience come to an end? There is no sufficient reason to think so. However, future directions are still uncertain. If you have an idea: please write to me!
I will address the challenge of a next turn in experience in the epilogue to the book I am currently working on. This book, describing the evolution of experience and its impact on human history, is titled The History of Experience.
In 2018, I outlined my main theses in an essay entitled “History and Experience”.