Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience


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This is the kind of forgetting taking place when a civilization "commits suicide" by exchanging a previous identity for a new one. Hegel's moving account of the conflict between Socrates and the Athenian state is presented as the paradigmatic example of this kind of forgetting. Two conclusions follow from an analysis of this type of forgetting. First, we can now understand what should be recognized as a civilization's historical sublime and how the notions of the historical sublime and of collective trauma are related.

Second, it follows that myth and scientific history do not exclude each other; on the contrary, scientific history creates myth. This should not be taken to be a defect of history, for this is precisely how it should be. History and Theory, Theme Issue 40 December , Theories of revolution invoke human agency to commit the violence that revolution entails, yet theorists of revolution often denounce the general theory of human agency called rational choice because they say it does not explain macrosocial facts like revolution and also leaves out culture.

Actually, however, rational choice is the major premise of any cogent explanation of revolution, and it includes culture as a factual premise. Rational-choice theory applied to explaining revolution dates back to Thucydides, whose method of explanation is sound and whose theory of revolution is true. Thucydides explains the macrosocial fact of revolution by way of models whose elements are people doing what they hope will succeed, that is, acting on opinion alias culture. Theorists of revolution who make sense of it all rehearse Thucydides: they analyze the narrative history into strategic actions and reactions, explain these actions and reactions by rational choice, and document the explanation with direct and circumstantial evidence for hope of success, though they seldom own up on theory and method or preach what they practice.

Steel, unlike the "element" iron, is a product of human fabrication. It is both hard and potentially flexible. Further, whereas a cage confines human agents, but leaves their powers otherwise intact, a "shell" suggests that modern capitalism has created a new kind of being. After examining objections to this interpretation, I argue that whatever the problems with Parsons's "iron cage" as a rendition of Weber's own metaphor, it has become a "traveling idea," a fertile coinage, in its own right, an intriguing example of how the translator's imagination can impose itself influentially on the text and its readers.

History and Theory 37 February , 37, This critique is based on the now famous idea that modern philosophies of history have only extended and deepened an illusion fabricated by a long tradition of Christian historical reflection: the illusion that history itself has an intrinsic goal. Among the problems implicitly considered in relation to the theory of secularization in Meaning in History is a theme frequently addressed in earlier writings: the motives that led German intellectuals like Friedrich Gogarten, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt to adhere to the Nazi movement.

My aim in this article is to analyze the topic of making history versus talking about history in order to understand most historians' evident decision to ignore talking about history. Ultimately my goal is to determine whether it is possible to talk about history with any sense. To this end, I will establish a typology of the different forms of talking practiced by historians, using a chronological approach, from the Greek and Roman emphasis on the visual witness to present-day narrativism and textual analysis. Having recognized the peculiar textual character of the historiographical work, I will then discuss whether one can speak of a method for analyzing historiographical works.

This involves breaking the dichotomy between making and talking about history, adopting a fuzzy method that overcomes the isolation of self-named scientific communities, and that destroys the barriers among disciplines that work with the same texts but often from mutually excluding perspectives. Talking about history is only possible if one knows about history and about its sources and methods, but also about the foundations of the other social sciences and about the continuing importance of traditional philosophical problems of Western thought in the fields of history and the human sciences.

History and Theory, Theme Issue 38 December , In the philosophy of science there has traditionally been a tendency to regard physics as the incarnation of science per se. Accordingly, the status of other disciplines is evaluated then with respect to their ability to produce laws resembling those of physics. This view has yielded a considerable bias in the discussion of historical laws. Philosophers as well as historians have tended to discuss such laws mostly with reference to the situation in physics; this often led to either one of two conclusions, namely that 1 history is epistemologically completely separated from natural science, because it does not have universal laws, or that 2 the ultimate goal of the study of history must be the formulation of such universal laws.

I would maintain that neither conclusion is necessary. To substantiate this position, aspects of laws in nature are discussed. One aspect being often neglected is the fact that there are many cases of statistical laws in nature; there is no close link between laws and determinism. Moreover, there are natural systems which have a history, i. One important case is biological evolution and accordingly I discuss the relation between evolutionary theory and historiography. However, since we are part of the living world, one could also ask whether the laws of evolution are of direct relevance for understanding our history, in addition to the methodological similarities between the two fields.

This issue of history as evolution is being investigated in detail in the final section of the paper. History and Theory 36 May , — Pocock and Quentin Skinner have led a recent onslaught on the alleged "myth of coherence" in the history of ideas. But their criticisms depend on mistaken views of the nature of mind: respectively, a form of social constructionism, and a focus on illocutionary intentions at the expense of beliefs. An investigation of the coherence constraints that do operate on our ascriptions of belief shows historians should adopt a presumption of coherence, concern themselves with coherence, and proceed to reconstruct sets of beliefs as coherent wholes.

The history of ideas merges history with aspects of philosophy, where philosophy is understood as the study of the grammar of our concepts. A model of culture as a partially coherent system of signs comprised the most widely employed instrument for analyzing cultural meaning among the new cultural historians. However, the model failed to account for meanings that are produced by agents engaged in practices that are not guided by "reading" the contrasts among signs.

It also encouraged some analysts to conceive the difference between sign system and concrete practice as that between what is graspable as an intellectual form and what remains inaccessibly material or corporeal. This essay introduces three exemplars of the ties between signs and practices to show how the pragmatics of using signs comprises a structure and a generator of meaning in its own right.

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In the three exemplars, which are based on the tropes of metonymy, metaphor, and irony, I employ the analytic tools of linguistics to appreciate the non-discursive organization of practice. Analysis of the diverse logics for organizing practice offers promising means for investigating how signs come to seem experientially real for their users. Finally, this view of culture in practice suggests new hypotheses about the possible interdependencies as well as the lack of connection among the elements of a cultural setting.

Recent advances in the theory of dynamical systems, set-valued analysis, and viability theory offer new and interesting perspectives on the shaping of social and historical time. Specific aspects of these theories are presented in several different areas to show their concrete applications in history and historical demo-economy, and a parallel is established with novelist Tanizaki's fictional technique. In connection with this, McCloskey's comparison of storytelling with deterministic chaos is discussed and a critique of other models concerned with unpredictability in human affairs provided.

Finally, the shapings of social and historical time are described in terms of the viable strategies at the heart of evolutionary processes involving human agents interacting with a variety of constraints. Everywhere the s have been characterized by an odd mixture of ideological triumphalism-Fukuyama's "end of history" being only the crassest example-and of ideological uncertainty-can there be, should there be, a "third way"?

For all its pretensions to universality, the "New World Order" has never lost a fragility in appearance. Students of historiography can scarcely be surprised to learn that an uneasiness over the present and future has in turn frequently entailed uncertainty about the past and particularly about those parts of the past which had seemed most able to give clear and significant "lessons.

One evident example is the history of what in my Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima I called the "long" Second World War, that is, that crisis in confidence in the relationship between political and economic liberalism and the nation-state which, by the end of , had left only Britain, France, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia as in any sense preserving those "liberal" freedoms which had spread across Europe since In this article, I briefly review the most recent difficulties World War II combatant societies have had in locating a usable past in the history of those times. However, my major focus is on the specific case of Italy, very much a border state in the Cold War system, and today the political home of an "Olive Tree" and a "Liberty Pole" whose historical antecedents and whose philosophical base for the future are less than limpid.

History and Theory , Theme Issue 39 December , A gender revolution allegedly occurred in the British Cape Colony and South Africa at large in the nineteenth century. African patriarchs, traditionally pastoralists, took over women's agricultural work, adopted Victorian gender attributes, and became prosperous peasants nicknamed "black English".

I re-examine them, for Bundy's "Case Study" of Herschel, acclaimed as one of the regions that best fits his thesis. This Case Study omits women, who were the typical peasant producers. It marginalizes men failing to conform to bourgeois Victorian gender norms. It misrepresents class formation, causation, periodization, and peasant well-being.

It misdates proletarianization by at least three decades. The zenith of commodity production is misdated by at least half a century. A labor reservoir characterized by severe subsistence problems is represented as a prosperous peasantry. Bundy postulates that patriarchs "rose" into women's work and colonial masculine scripts in response to favorable conditions; I argue instead that younger men "fell" into these domains in response to disasters.

A silent gender bias-towards black Englishmen, against African women-had a marked impact on Bundy's analysis of class formation. The purpose of this article is to interrogate this silence and to show how it has warped a classic text. What motivated British colonialism? What motivated renaissance Florentines to finance their state? Why did Brazilian men find mixed-race women so attractive? What promotes falsity in reports of human affairs? Why did historical mindedness develop in ancient Greece and China but not India? When homosexual communities developed, why did gay men pursue sexual strategies so different from those of lesbians?

Why does a Heian-period Japanese description of fear of snakes sound so familiar to a Westerner? Why have rebels tended to be youngest rather than eldest siblings? To each of these and many other questions part of the answer lies in specific, identifiable features of human nature.

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Thus human nature is and should be a subtantial concern to anyone trying to understand the past. But human nature is also an object of scientific study. This paper explores a portion of this convergence of humanistic and scientific concerns by outlining and illustrating interrelations between human nature and history.

Exploration of the interrelations between history and human nature requires a detailed understanding of what human nature is. And whatever human nature may be, it is a product of human evolution. Accordingly, key concepts in evolutionary psychology are presented to provide theoretical tools for understanding the centerpiece of human nature, the human mind. As much as the study of history may benefit from an understanding of human nature, the study of history and the use of historical materials may also promote the scientific study of human nature.

Examples are given and several suggestions are presented to forward this task. Finally, an argument is made for a sort of back engineering in which historical events and conditions are traced to the specific features of human nature that motivated, facilitated, or shaped them. Insofar as this task is achieved, it closes the gap between recorded history and evolutionary history, between the humanities and the sciences.

Philosophers and historians have long been suspicious of modal and counterfactual claims. I argue, however, that historians often legitimately use modal and counterfactual claims for a variety of purposes. They help identify causes, and hence help explain events in history. They are used to defend judgments about people, and to highlight the importance of particular events. I defend these uses of modal claims against two arguments often used to criticize modal reasoning, using the philosophy of science to ground the truth of modal claims. This analysis puts several important points into perspective, including how certain we can be about our claims about what might have been, and the role that determinism plays in those claims.

The proper analysis of modality shows, I argue, that counterfactual claims are legitimate and important, if often uncertain, and that issues of determinism are irrelevant to the modal claims used in historical analysis. This article outlines the theoretical developments experienced in historical studies over the last two decades. As a consequence of the growing critical reconsideration of some of the main theoretical assumptions underlying historical explanation of individuals' meaningful actions, a new theory of society has taken shape among historians during this time.

By emphasizing the empirical and analytical distinction between language as a pattern of meanings and language as a means of communication, a significant group of historians has thoroughly recast the conventional notions of society, experience, interests, culture, and identity, and has developed a new concept of social action.


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Thus, historiographical debate seems to have started to transcend, for the first time, the longstanding and increasingly futile contest or dilemma between objectivism and subjectivism, between materialism and culturalism, between social and intentional explanation, or between social constraints and human agency. The groundwork has now been laid for an alternative to the declining paradigm of social history that does not entail a revisionist return be it partial or complete to idealist history but opens a quite different path.

A historian's account of a past action must take into account the agent's point of view, and that point of view may differ radically from that of the historian. This difference of points of view, I argue, may extend to the very place and time of the action in question. In this paper, by exploring the spatial and temporal aspects of action, agency, and the description of past action, I try to describe the interplay of points of view between historian and historical agent. Because of these differences, actions may be embedded in radically different realities for agent and historian, different conceptions of the spatially and temporally real.

This is especially true of time: an action may have a very different future for the agent from the future it has in retrospect. These discrepancies, I claim, do not constitute an obstacle that can be overcome, but are structural features of the relation between description and action.

This is because they are merely extensions into a particular domain of certain features of relations between persons. I try to show that these features also have implications for the concepts of narrative and of counterfactual history. Art museums frequently remove old paintings from their original settings. In the process, the context of these works of art changes dramatically. Do museums then preserve works of art?

This example suggests that how Piero's painting is seen does depend upon its setting. According to the Intentionalist, such changes in context have no real influence upon the meaning of Piero's painting.

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According to the Skeptic, if such changes are drastic enough, we can no longer identify the picture's original meaning. Museums fail to preserve works of art. I develop the debate between the Intentionalist and the Skeptic. Ultimately skepticism is indefensible, I argue, because it fails to take account of the continuities in the history of art's display. In presenting the history of Piero's painting, The Travels and Tribulations of Piero's Baptism of Christ shows that we can re-identify the original significance of Piero's work. It makes sense to claim that at least in certain circumstances art museums can preserve works of art.

This essay provides an introduction to seven essays given at that conference and expanded for this Theme Issue of History and Theory.


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Danto presented his view of the nature of art in The Transfiguration of the Commonplace He then added in the Mellon lectures a sociological perspective on the current situation of the visual arts, and an Hegelian historiography. The history of art has ended, Danto claims, and we now live in a posthistorical era. Since in his well-known book on historiography, Analytical Philosophy of History , Danto is unsympathetic to Hegel's speculative ways of thinking about history, his adaptation of this Hegelian framework is surprising.

Danto's strategy in After the End of Art is best understood by grasping the way in which he transformed the purely philosophical account of The Transfiguration into a historical account. Recognizing that his philosophical analysis provided a good way of explaining the development of art in the modern period, Danto radically changed the context of his argument. In this process, he opened up discussion of some serious but as yet unanswered questions about his original thesis, and about the plausibility of Hegel's claim that the history of art has ended.

This article focuses on the arguments that Arthur Danto has advanced for alleging that the developmental history of art is over. The author is skeptical of Danto's conclusion and maintains that Danto has failed to demonstrate that art history is necessarily closed. The author also contends that Danto's end-of-art thesis is better construed as a specimen of art criticism than as an example of the speculative philosophy of art history.

What Time Is Japan? Problems of Comparative Intercultural Historiography. Rather than reflect on the process of an alleged "modernization" of historical scholarship, an intercultural comparison of historiography should take the European origins of academic history as its starting point. The reason, as this article argues, is that in non-European countries the European genealogy of the discipline of history continued to structure interpretations of the past. Both on the level of method, but more importantly on the level of interpretive strategies, "Europe" remained the yardstick for historiographical explanation.

This article will use the example of postwar Japanese historiography to show that historians resorted to a European model in order to turn seemingly unconnected events in the Japanese past into a historical narrative. This is not to imply, however, that Japanese historiography passively relied on concepts from Western discourse. On the contrary, Japanese historians appropriated and transformed the elements of this discourse in the specific geopolitical setting of the s and s.

This act of appropriation served the political purpose of positioning Japan with respect to Asia and the "West. History and Theory, Theme Issue 36 December , Museums are conventionally viewed as institutions dedicated to the conservation of valued objects and the education of the public. Recently, controversies have arisen regarding the representation of history in museums. National museums in America and Germany considered here, such as the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the German Historical Museum, have become sites of contention where national histories and personal memories are often at odds.

Contemporary art installations in museums which take historical consciousness as their theme similarly raise contentious issues about public knowledge of and personal interest in the past. When members of publics find that their memories of the past or their expectations for museum experiences are not being met, a kind of "distortion" occurs. The "distortion" related to memory and history in the museum is not so much of facts or interpretations, but rather a distortion from the lack of congruity between personal experience and expectation, on the one hand, and the institutional representation of the past on the other.

This essay explores the possibilities for a redefined relationship between personal memory and history that is experienced in contemporary museums. If, as many historians and theorists now believe, narrative is the form proper to historical explanation, this raises the problem of the terms in which such narratives are to be evaluated. Without a clear account of evaluation, the status of historical knowledge both in itself and in all those social, political, and other contexts in which appeal to historical explanation is made remains obscure.

Beginning with the view, found in Hayden White and others, that historical narrative constitutes a meaning not reducible to the factual content it engages, this essay argues that such meaning can arise only through a synthesis of cognitive and normative discourses. Narrative combines "heterogeneous" language games in such a way that neither appeal to "truth content" nor to "justice" suffices to decide the question of which of two competing historical explanations is, as a whole, superior.

Examining in critical detail the opposed positions on this issue articulated by two recent theorists-Frank Ankersmit "narrative idealism" and David Carr "narrative realism" -the paper concludes that the debate between those who hold that historical narratives should be judged in essentially cognitive terms and those who hold that they should be judged in essentially political terms cannot be resolved and that a philosophical view of historical narrative that is neither realist nor idealist needs to be developed.

This essay constructs philosophical defenses against criticisms of my theory of the end of art. These have to do with the definition of art; the concept of artistic quality; the role of aesthetics; the relationship between philosophy and art; how to answer the question "But is it art? These defenses amplify and fortify the thesis of the end of art as set forth in my After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History Evolutionary anthropology has focused on the origins of war, or rather ethnocentricity, because it epitomizes the problem of group selection, and because war may itself have been the main agent of group selection.

The neo-Darwinian synthesis in biology has explained how ethnocentricity might evolve by group selection, and the distinction between evoked culture and adopted culture, suggested by the emerging synthesis in evolutionary psychology, has explained how it might be transmitted. Ethnocentric mechanisms could have evolved by genetic selection in ancestral hominids, or through the interaction of genetic and cultural selection in modern humans, or both. The existence of similar behaviors in chimpanzees and the parallel development of early human societies around the globe are arguments for such inherited mechanisms.

There may have been some adaptive breakthroughs in purely cultural evolution, but this process does not seem likely to produce long-term Darwinian adaptations because of the prolificity of cultural traits. Warfare may once have been a major agent of group selection, but the rates of extinction among human groups are so slow as to render this improbable since the rise of state-level societies, whose warfare tends to become a cyclical balance-of-power situation.

Perhaps the most serious implication of current evolutionary thought is that the individualistic model of culture common in the social sciences and humanities is outmoded, and should be replaced by a new model that recognizes the organismic nature of human societies. This paper calls for an ethical turn in historiographical theorizing, for reconfiguring history as a discipline of the good as well as the true. It bases this call on the juxtaposition of two recent strands of historiographical discourse hitherto entirely separate: the invocation of the Holocaust, the most morally charged of all past events, as the limit case of historiographical theory in the polemics of Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Richard Evans, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Omer Bartov against post-linguistic-turn historiographical thinking; and the profound unease about the adequacy-indeed the very possibility-of reconstructing Auschwitz accurately in the theoretical reflections to which the practice of Holocaust history has led Raul Hilberg, Saul Friedlander, and Dominick LaCapra.

The embrace of right and wrong as the other of history's true and false will both enable a more robust condemnation of the Holocaust negationists and nurture a genre of historical representation that will speak more meaningfully to a manifestly history-hungry public than the historical writing of professional historians has done. A crisis of our age that is usually identified with the loss of the sacred was one of the causes of the fall into irony in the nineteenth century.

In the case of historians, as Hayden White has shown in Metahistory , this irony was caused by a "bitterness" stemming from the failure of reality to fulfill their expectations. An ironic apprehension of the world arose in an atmosphere of social breakdown or cultural decline. A current stage of irony manifests itself in a doubt as to the capacity of language to grasp reality. Thus we live in a "prison house of language. Therefore, the main purpose of this essay is to answer the question: how can we go beyond irony? This text is a "post-postmodern post mortem to postmodernism.

I need order. I miss metanarrative. We observe at present the breakdown of methodology and the rise of a more poetic approach in the human sciences. This trend is associated with a revaluation of the subjective aspects of research. Perhaps, and I would welcome it, it also could be identified with a reappearance of a Collingwoodian idea of history as human self-knowledge, knowledge about human nature, knowledge about "what it is to be a man.

History and Theory 37 October , While there is much writing on the nation as the subject of linear history, considerably less attention has been paid to the dimension of the nation as the always identifiable, unchanging subject of history. This unchanging subject is necessitated by the ascendancy of the conception of linear time in capitalism in which change is viewed not only as accelerating, but can no longer be framed by an ultimate source of meaning such as God. Ostensibly, linear history is the falling of events into the "river of time," but national history also posits a continuous subject to gather these changes.

Such a subject is recognizable only by the spiritual qualities of authenticity, purity, and sacrality. The nation-state and nationalists stake their claim to sovereign authority, in part, as custodians of this authenticity. A range of figures, human and non-human, come to symbolize a regime of authenticity manipulable to some extent by nationalists and state-builders.

This essay focuses on the instance of women in early twentieth-century China. Nationalists and cultural essentialists tended to depict women as embodying the eternal Chinese civilizational virtues of self-sacrifice and loyalty and to elevate them as national exemplars. The essay also examines cases of how women themselves may have perceived this role as exemplars and concludes that while there was considerable subversion in their enunciation of this role to their advantage , there was sufficient reference to the prescriptive code of authenticity in their self-formation to sustain the regime of authenticity.

The essay ends with some thoughts about the changing relationship between authenticity and intensifying globalization in the contemporary world. This article claims that postmodernity necessarily, and perhaps opportunely, undermines the bases upon which political democracy traditionally has rested; and that therefore some significant work must be done in order to redefine, restore, or otherwise reconfigure democratic values and institutions for a changed cultural condition.

This situation presents the opportunity to explore the new options, positive openings, and discursive opportunities that postmodernity presents for political practice; for this the problem of agency provides a focal issue. The practices of postmodernity, taken together, represent substantial challenges, not just to this or that cherished habit, but to modernity itself and all its corollaries, including its inventions of objectivity, of "the individual" miserable treasure , and of all the related values project, capital, consensus and, above all, neutrality which still underwrite so much of what we do as citizens, consumers, and professionals not to mention as more private persons, parents, and partners.

Fortunately, postmodernity does not demolish all our most cherished beliefs, values, and practices; but it does require recognition of how those beliefs, values, and practices actually function and of what alternatives they suppress. This theme issue's call for papers notes that "several prevalent and influential historical practices of the last thirty years have limited agency's significance,.

By examining a largely unremarked episode in Michel Foucault's highly influential thought and considering its connections to foundational assumptions of the linguistic turn, we seek to demonstrate in detail why the premises that underlie both structuralism and poststructuralism the theoretical movements most deeply implicated in the direction the linguistic turn has taken in history logically require the denial of agency as a causal force and ultimately compel the conclusion that no change can occur in realities as interpreted by humans.

We illustrate the intractability of these logical problems by analyzing unsatisfactory defenses from some of the few linguistic-turn historians who have discussed relevant issues, after which we conclude by suggesting that attention to current work in linguistics and cognitive science may help resolve such difficulties. This essay is a kind of sequel to an earlier one entitled "Marx's Aufhebung of Philosophy and the Foundations of a Historical-Materialist Science.

The specific purpose of the essay is twofold: to portray the "decentered" dialectical methodology follows from Marx's historical-materialist redefinition of the subject-object relation; and to map the kinds of analytical tasks, the open-ended "itineraries," that a historical-materialist science of Wissenschaft must pursue. This "dialectical cartography" is developed through a critical and hopefully productive response to poststructuralist critiques of dialectics, particularly to those approaches that exaggerate Saussure's notion of the arbitrariness of signs.

In this respect my intention is to indicate how the current confrontational relation between historical materialism and poststructuralism, especially over matters of the production of meaning and the analysis of culture, might be transformed intoone of complementarity. The drive to describe cultural history as an evolutionary process has two sources. One from within social theory is part of the impetus to convert social studies into "social sciences" providing them with the status accorded to the natural sciences.

The other comes from within biology and biological anthropology in the belief that the theory of evolution must be universal in its application to all functions of all living organisms. The social scientific theory of cultural evolution is pre-Darwinian, employing a developmental model of unfolding characterized by intrinsic directionality, by definable stages that succeed each other and by some criterion of progress. It is arbitrary in its definitions of progress and has had the political problem that a diachronic claim of cultural progress implies a synchronic differential valuation of present-day cultures.

The biological scheme creates an isomorphism between the Darwinian mechanism of evolution and cultural history, postulating rules of cultural "mutation", cultural inheritance and some mechanism of natural selection among cultural alternatives. It uses simplistic ad hoc notions of individual acculturation and of the differential survival and reproduction of cultural elements. It is unclear what useful work is done by substituting the metaphor of evolution for history. Documentary film, in the words of Bill Nichols, is one of the "discourses of sobriety" that include science, economics, politics, and history-discourses that claim to describe the "real," to tell the truth.

Yet documentary film, in more obvious ways than does history, straddles the categories of fact and fiction, art and document, entertainment and knowledge. And the visual languages with which it operates have quite different effects than does the written text. In the following interview conducted during the winter of , historian Ann-Louise Shapiro raises questions about genre-the relationship of form to content and meaning-with documentary filmmaker Jill Godmilow. In order to explore the possibilities and constraints of non-fiction film as a medium for representing history, Godmilow was asked: What are the strategies and techniques by which documentary films make meaning?

In representing historical events, how does a non-fiction filmmaker think about accuracy? What are the criteria you have in mind when you call a film like The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl "dishonest"? How does the tension between making art and making history affect documentary filmmaking?

Should documentary filmmakers think of themselves, in the phrase of Ken Burns, as "tribal storytellers"? What kind of historical consciousness is produced by documentary film?

The ideas of Sauer, Darby, Clark, and Meinig have had a formative influence on the making of modern Anglo-American historical geography. These scholars emphasized the spatial- and place-focused orientation of geography, contrasting it with history's concern with time, the past, and change. Historical geography was conceived as combining the spatial interests of geography with the temporal interest of history, creating a field concerned with changing spatial patterns and landscapes.

This idea of historical geography avoided issues in the philosophy of history by making the historical geographer a kind of spectator to external changes in the ways things were ordered and arranged on the face of the earth. This "natural history" view of historical geography failed to deal with history conceived as an autonomous mode of understanding in which the scholar's task is to understand human activity as an embodiment of thought.

Historical geography is more adequately conceived as a Collingwoodian-type historical discipline, in which the task of the historical geographer is aimed at rethinking and displaying the thought of historical agents as their actions relate to the physical environment. The traditional subject matter of historical geography is not thereby redefined, but a change in the way geography is seen in its relation to history is necessitated. One way to recast the problem of cultural explanation in historical inquiry is to distinguish two conceptualizations involving culture: 1 cultural meanings as contents of signification however theorized that inform meaningful courses of action in historically unfolding circumstances; and 2 cultural structures as institutionalized patterns of social life that may be elaborated in more than one concrete construction of meaning.

This distinction helps to suggest how explanation can operate in accounting for cultural processes of meaning-formation, as well as in other ways that transcend specific meanings, yet are nonetheless cultural. Examples of historical explanation involving each construct are offered, and their potential examined. The following pages, which deal with the pre-history of the concept of history from Homer to Herodotus, first propose to decenter and historicize the Greek experience. After briefly presenting earlier and different experiences, they focus on three figures: the soothsayer, the bard, and the historian.

Starting from a series of Mesopotamian oracles known as "historical oracles" because they make use in the apodosis of the perfect and not the future tense , they question the relations between divination and history, conceived as two, certainly different, sciences of the past, but which share the same intellectual space in the hands of the same specialists. The Greek choices were different. Their historiography presupposes the epic, which played the role of a generative matrix. Herodotus wished to rival Homer; what he ultimately became was Herodotus. Writing dominates; prose replaces verse; the Muse, who sees and knows everything, is no longer around.

So I would suggest understanding the emblematic word "historia" as a subsititute, which operates as an analogue of the previous omnivision of the Muse. But before that, Herodotean "invention"- the meeting of Odysseus and the bard Demodocus, where for the first time the fall of Troy is told-can be seen as the beginning, poetically speaking at least, of the category of history.

In this article I will discuss some systematic issues of Arthur Danto's philosophy of art and art history from a Hegelian perspective. Belonging to "Absolute Spirit," art can be called a "spiritual kind. Nevertheless, elements of essentialism can be maintained when describing art's historicity and conceptual structure. To this end, "art" can be interpreted as a two-tier concept: in inherently reflecting its concept, it projects its own conditions into the past, co-opting "prehistorical" artworks as predecessors and classical examples.

Hegel's view of art as conceptually structured in itself can have disenfranchising or reenfranchising consequences: either reducing art to minor philosophy, or acknowledging its privileged access to its own essence. After Danto's detachment of the philosophy of art from aesthetics, Hegel would himself be deprived of the possibility to "define" art by intuition Anschauung. Even if the spirit consists of essential kinds, philosophy is not in a privileged position to establish the essence of art and thus the difference between art and philosophy.

Rather, philosophy must acknowledge art as a neighbor Heidegger and as partner in a dialogue. History and Theory 36 October , — This article argues for the establishment of a new, "annalistic" model of history and historical investigation. This implies a new concept of historical event: instead of being seen as an element within a historical narrative, the historical event is defined as the common reference point of many narratives that can be told about it.

The annalistic model also implies a new concept of historical change: instead of being defined as the change of an "object" within a set of given historical parameters, historical change has to be perceived as the change of parameters related to a given historical object. A new concept of history follows from the annalistic model: instead of history being a metaphysical unity of space and time the destiny of mankind, the positivist's world of facts , in which everything is linked to everything, it is instead the product of historical judgment carried out by those who design stories about their own past, present, and future.

To the "annalist" a world is imaginable in which no history has existed, exists, or will exist. The article analyzes three aspects of the concept of historical time: it demonstrates the huge variety of temporal structures in history; it argues for the foundation of the representation of historical time in linguistic concepts; and it discusses the relationship of fictionality and reality in historical discourse. Finally, the annalistic model is compared to the traditional concept of history established by historicism in the nineteenth century.

This article describes the conceptual framework what I call a "style of reasoning" within which knowledge about Africa was legitimized in eighteenth-century French philosophy. The article traces a shift or rupture in this conceptual framework which, at the end of the eighteenth century, led to the emergence of new conditions for knowledge legitimation that altered Europe's perception of Africa.

The article examines these two conceptual frameworks within the context of a discussion of the social theory of the time, which categorized Africans first as savages, and then, with the advent of our modern "style of reasoning," as primitives. The argument used to demonstrate this change in categorizations is historical.

In the terminology of Michel Foucault, the paper is an "archaeological" investigation of knowledge about Africa. The greater part of the article analyzes in detail the principal social theory of Enlightenment philosophy, the stadial theory of society, with the aim of demonstrating how it determined what could be affirmed about Africa.

The shift in the perception of Africans from savages to primitives involved an epistemological change in how societies were grasped. The article provides a greater understanding of the constitution of Africa as a cognitive construct, which is not only of theoretical concern; this construct shaped Europe's intervention in Africa, and continues to influence what we believe Africa is and should become.

In an overtly positioned response which issues from a close reading of Zagorin's text, I argue that his all-too-typical misunderstandings of postmodernism need to be "corrected"-not, however, to make postmodernism less of a threat to "history as we have known it," or to facilitate the assimilation of its useful elements while exorcising its "extremes.

And I want to argue that if this theory is understood in ways which choose not to give up as Derrida urges us not to give up the "discourse of emancipation" after the failure of its first attempt in the "experiment of modernity," then this ending can be considered "a good thing. The problem of how to access and deploy the explanatory power of culture in historical accounts has long remained vexing.

This article argues that meaning construction is at the nexus of culture, social structure, and social action, and must be the explicit target of investigation into the cultural dimension of historical explanation. Through an empirical analysis of political alliance during the Irish Land War, —, I demonstrate that historians can uncover meaning construction by analyzing the symbolic structures and practices of narrative discourse. Arthur C. Danto has long defended essentialism in the philosophy of art, yet he has been interpreted by many as a historicist.

Danto's strategy for resolving this conflict involves, among other things, a Bildungsroman of modern art failing to discover its essence, an essentialist definition of art provided by philosophy which is indemnified against history, and a thesis about the end of art once it has been defined. Is this strategy successful, or does it result, as I argue, in a philosophical disenfranchisement of art of precisely the type that Danto himself has criticized? What is the State? What allows us to talk about the state as an active agent when we understand that only individuals act?

This article draws comparisons between Quentin Skinner's exposition of the history of the concept of the state in major European languages and the history of its equivalent Russian term gosudarstvo in order to provide some general hypotheses on the development of the phenomenon of the state, and on the origins of this baffling usage. First, summing up a vast number of historical and lexicographical works, it attempts a detailed reconstruction of the conceptual development of the term in the Russian language.

Second, a peculiarity of the Russian case is discussed, in which absolutist thinkers and not republicans, as in western Europe stressed the difference between the person of the ruler and the state. Third, political interests in introducing such novel usage are discussed, together with the role of this usage in the formation of the state. This allows us to see better the origins of current faith in the existence of the state as a more or less clearly designated and independent actor, predicated on the mechanism of what Pierre Bourdieu described as "mysterious delegation.

Frequently, historical comparisons are asymmetrical in the sense that they investigate one case carefully while limiting themselves to a mere sketch of the other case s which serve s as comparative reference point s. The debate on the German Sonderweg special path and the rich historical literature originating from this debate can serve as examples.

This article reconstructs the pros and cons within this controversial debate, reports its results and puts it into a broader historical context. It analyzes the comparative logic implied by the Sonderweg thesis and argues that the interpretation of modern German history in the sense of a Sonderweg can only be maintained if related to the question why Germany turned fascist and totalitarian in the interwar period while other comparable societies did not, and if Western countries are selected as units of comparison.

The choice of comparative reference points turns out to be decisive and partly dependent on normative priorities and conventions. The article points to dangers and opportunities inherent in asymmetrical comparison. Danto's new book After the End of Art also provokes this question because in his restatement of Hegel's verdict on art's historical role he drops an essential part of the implied definition of art: the issue of adequacy between content and presentation.

Why dispense with this crucial point of quality judgment? My critique falls into three parts. The first part shows how the whole historical argument rests upon a shift of criteria. According to Hegel art reached its highest point of achievement in classical antiquity when adequate embodiment seemed indispensable to the presence of the spirit. It subsequently lost this exclusive rank-first through Christianity, then through modern philosophy-when a new spiritual self-awareness emerged which no longer seemed to need external manifestation.

Although Danto disputes the concept of absolute self-possession as the metaphysical vanishing point of Hegel's construction, he nevertheless subscribes to its apparent evidence in late twentieth-century art and culture. In the second part I discuss the characteristic distortions of Hegelian-type historicism and confront them with both the obvious misrepresentation of the works of art themselves and the different code of conduct in practical art history.

This leads to a rather disenchanting conclusion: according to an old, deeply ingrained philosophical prejudice there is no problem about quality in art, because the true yardstick and fulfillment of art is philosophy itself. The final part tries to unpick this tangle by showing that there was in fact, contemporaneous with Hegel, a remarkably different interpretation of the self-same auspices of modern art which comes much closer to its actual achievements, and this without denying the basic philosophical predicament of which Danto has reminded us.

This article focuses on colonial accounts of the killing of the Xhosa chief, Hintsa, in at the hands of British forces along what came to be known as the eastern Cape frontier. It explores the evidentiary procedures and protocols through which the event came to be narrated in colonial frames of intelligibility. In proposing a strategy for reading the colonial archive, the paper strategically interrupts the flow from an apartheid historiography to what is commonly referred to as "alternative history.

This is achieved not by way of declaration but rather through a practice whereby the foundational category of evidence is problematized. The paper alludes to the limits of alternative history and its approaches to evidence on the one hand, and the conditions of complicity within which evidence is produced on the other. Whereas alternative history identifies its task as one of re-writing South African history, critical history, it is suggested, offers the opportunity to reconstitute the field of history by addressing the sites of its production and also its practices.

In exploring the production of the colonial record on the killing of Hintsa, the paper seeks to complicate alternative history's slippage in and out of the evidentiary rules established by colonial domination even as it constitutes the category of evidence as an object for a politics of history of the present. For the work that history can do? Here is to defend reenactment as a position rather than a practice. One man in its pages can depict an astonishing nine human emotions, dutifully picked apart by Roth, who does her best to entertain that sadness always entails a certain scrunching-up of the eyes, etc.

This is what reenactment the practice looks like. Rather, as a position, or an intention that can be present in many forms, be it the religious, political or dramatic events where reenactment of whatever kind can be said to be taking place, the term poses a more interesting quarry. If we were to instead look at reenactment as a fixed criteria, demanding public attendance, arrangement in partnership with some local or national historical association, a certain provenance of instruments used — as Roth does — then we end up having to entertain a practice that does not consider reenactment as a problem to be worked out, but rather a tangible endpoint to be achieved.

But in the special space cordoned-off by these three things, a genuine sense of history reanimated seldom arrives. Yet it forms the large majority of what practical reenactment is. The cast and crew travelled to Louisiana and played slavery, in the short, intense and largely choreographed scenes permitted by filming; in that sense, pretty much the opposite of the full-time, improvisational reenactors interviewed by Roth.

What is replicable, however, is the weather, the landscape, the clothes and the cadences of past actors. What comes with that is their politics, their way of life. All in confinement, without audiences to ask questions. The Big Houses on river bends still exist down-south, sitting as prominently as before, making possible the experience of sitting across from it transported to another time, another role.

Frantic explanation, constantly removing audiences from such immersion, is where reenactors fail to reenact. The above is not to bastardise reenactment as a vocation, but to call for care in how we handle the highly dismissable encounters offered by Roth when thinking about reenactment as an idea. Nor is it to suggest film, or the great Steve McQueen himself, are only capable of instigating reenactment as something felt.

No-one involved in an exercise touching on this need be a professional, either. There are many methods, of course, but most converge on the same idea that to act is to receive contrived information as fact, and to proceed through a script in this state of reaction, as we do in life. There are several different directions that a discussion of this idea of reanimation and re-enactment could go in.

And I realized after reading the books assigned these terms seem more ambiguous than ever. We could discuss the curious status of ownership and historical authenticity which she forefronts in her discussion that touch on questions of collaboration and the mediation and modulation of historical interpretation. There is the fact that these 20th century war reenactments had no primary fidelity to particular spatial terrains, Vietnam War reenactments and WWII reenactments could be conducted in regions and conditions vastly different from where it was actually fought.

When all of these cohered for me at the end of the book, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that these reenactments become excisions of time where, removed from other contexts of the war, these battle reenactments become free-floating constructs that can double themselves endlessly.

To put it in another way although I still debate about framing it in such a way these circumscriptions and elisions of history formed puzzling reproducible snapshots. Ankersmit suggests that aesthetic and sensory experiences allow historians to directly access the past at least when compared to our dry and distant encounters with academic texts. I want to argue that these experiences only seem to be immediate: sensory experiences, like texts, are only meaningful within a historical context.

I will use sound and painting to help make my case. A few years ago, certain noises—the ubiquitous vibrating smartphone or the distinctive ding accompanying a new email—had little significance. Context, however, has transformed these sounds into almost universally recognized codes.

So, we might ask, can sensory experience be removed from its context and profitably examined? In the same way that the hum of a vibrating smart phone would mean little to Abraham Lincoln, the soundscape of the Civil War loses much of its meaning for the uninitiated twenty-first-century ear.

Isolating sonic vibrations from both the other senses and a social matrix misses this point and suggests that sound signifies in non-arbitrary ways. We can also see this point if we think about another medium — painting. All spatial and temporal demarcations have momentarily been lifted; it is as if the temporal trajectory between past and present, instead of separating the two, has become the locus of their encounter.

Historical experience pulls the faces of the past and present together in a short but ecstatic kiss. Here, he quotes Spengler:. In the facades of palaces and churches straight lines of a still sensory palpability gradually become more and more unreal. This light, however, playing over the world of the ripe Baroque——from Bernini around to the Rococo of Dresden, Vienna, and Paris——has become a purely music element.

The Zwinger of Dresden is a Symphony. Together with mathematics, eighteenth-century architecture developed into a world of forms of an essentially musical character. To interpret the figuratively symphonic character of a historical artifact, through the mediating membrane of surface, is to engage with historical evidence in a Dionesian sense, to lose oneself within the intangible qualities of an otherwise inert record or artifact.

In , on a class study-abroad excursion to Beijing, I had the opportunity to visit the Beijing National Stadium, a structure completed shortly in advance of the Olympic games. On television, the structure appeared as a gleaming, newly-minted icon; every television camera captured the stadium overflowing with visitors from around the world, with each square inch of occupiable surface crowded with tourists, athletes, and other paraphernalia. Upon entering the olympic site in , however, this atmosphere of exuberance had changed completely.

Gone were the crowds of olympians and spectators; the entire structure, and its surrounding pedestrian square, was completely deserted. But beyond these physical traces of decay and desertion, the overwhelming effect was one of indescribable sadness: this monstrous complex, designed for a specific instance and moment in time, had completely ceased to be of use after the Olympic games, and was now a kind of impossible monument, a surreal relic awaiting its eventual demise.

Surprisingly, the incredible emptiness and decay of the Olympic complex only heightened my visceral connection to the architectural environment. In moving around the Olympic site for over an hour, it was impossible to suppress the emotional resonances created by this abject state of abandonment. The spectacular construction, momentary euphoria, and slow decline of the site and its visitors were all encapsulated within the vast emptiness now shrouding the structure. In this instant, I began to lose myself in the architectural object——I momentarily engaged with this environment on a deeply personal level, allowing the symphonic overlapping of space, time, history, event, and surface to overwhelm my senses and my thoughts.

It is difficult now to think of the stadium without thinking of this powerful experience. The immense power of my experience in the stadium was far beyond what any text, drawing, or image could convey——the environment, in that moment, relayed a story far more affecting and personal than I could have otherwise imagined. A classical problem in intellectual history is the difficulty of accounting for changes over time in the views of a thinker or intellectual milieu.

It almost never happens that a new truth emerges in a Eureka! New truths gain traction and are adopted through persuasion, which is a necessary experience supplementary to any self-evident truth-content.

Volumes Abstracts, History and Theory

Beyond the so-called history of the senses, Ankersmit implores us to see intellectual activity as itself sensual, erasing the assumed distinction therein between thought and sensation. Ankersmit opens a route for taking intellectual experience seriously in a way that avoids such reductiveness by encouraging us to return to the moment of thinking itself. I now dare to bring into our seminar another source from my own work that first led me to recognize the centrality of historical experience to philosophical reflection. At several points in a captivating interview, the German political theorist Hannah Arendt is asked to explain the emergence of her political consciousness from her previously purely philosophical inclinations.

But it has since been overshadowed by later events. It was an immediate shock for me. I was no longer of the opinion one can be a bystander. Arendt looks up and meditates on the question for some long seconds, pursuing the memory of that past intellectual experience. It was not a new set of facts but a shocking intellectual experience not a trauma, for Arendt is clear to emphasize her political agency that led Arendt to feel responsible.

Later in the interview, Arendt is asked about her relationship to the German language after over two decades of writing primarily in English. Going beyond her writing practices, she says — that the decisive moment when her relationship to the German language changed was the day she heard about Auschwitz:. At least not for me. The decisive day was when we heard about Auschwitz. In My husband and I said the Nazis were capable of anything.

But six months later we did believe it. We had the proof. That was the real shock. Before that, we said, well, one has enemies. That is natural. But this was different. It was as if an abyss had opened. We had the idea that amends could be made for everything else. Amends can be made for almost anything at some point in politics.

But not for this. This ought never to have happened. I mean what happened to the corpses. I need not go into detail. That should never have happened. Something happened to which we can never reconcile ourselves. In this case with Arendt, the interview form brings these commitments out in a way that is much more difficult to see in texts.

Where you have language, experience is not, and vice versa. We have language in order not to have experience and to avoid the fears and terrors that are typically provoked by experience; language is the shield protecting us against the terrors of a direct contact with the world as conveyed by experience.

Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience
Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience
Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience
Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience
Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience
Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience Frank Ankersmits Lost Historical Cause: A Journey from Language to Experience

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