Frank Ankersmit

in Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation

Published by Cornell University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780801450716
Published online August 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780801463853

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If we must distinguish between interpretation and representation, and if the historical text should be seen primarily as a representation of some part of the past, it follows that a closer analysis of the notion of (historical) representation is necessary for a sound understanding of what a historical text is and of how it relates to what it represents. This chapter focuses on the notion of (historical) representation itself. It shows that representation cannot be reduced to description. In fact, the inverse is true. Representation precedes language and hence description. It follows that when language is used representationally—as is the case in historical writing—this use cannot satisfactorily be accounted for in terms of the existing philosophy of language, which disregards the issue of the representational use of language. The consequence is that existing theories of (1) reference, (2) truth, and (3) meaning cannot automatically be assumed to be applicable to historical representation. While this may be the case, we can come to such a conclusion only after having carefully and impartially examined whether these notions can be applied to historical representation at all and, if so, what content they can be taken to have.

Keywords: historical representation; historical text; historical writing; interpretation

Chapter.  10499 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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