Experience as the Invisible Drive of Historical Writing

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Zoltán Boldizsár Simon Eötvös Loránd University Budapest

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From time to time our tiny intellectual worlds are simultaneously shaken by big ideas – ideas that, however big they are, have their expiration-date. Such is the case with the idea of the impossibility to find life outside language. In this essay, I picture what I think is the current state of the philosophy of history after the so-called linguistic turn and what I think the direction is where the philosophy of history might be headed by taking into account the important job done by linguistic theories. I regard the abandonment of epistemology and the arrival to the realm of aesthetics as a point of no return, and conclude that a new philosophy of history has to have an aesthetic character. However, due to the omnipotence of language I also detect a narrow constructive potential in linguistic theories and argue that a new philosophy of history has to have the dual task of searching for life outside language while remaining in the realm of aesthetics. As a next step, I identify Frank Ankersmit’s notion of an individual historical experience as a move towards the fulfillment of this dual task. Finally, because Ankersmit’s experience remains mute, in the second half of the essay I attempt to present an outline of the possibility of a fruitful cooperation between the philosophy of history and phenomenology. More precisely, I am trying to synchronize Ankersmit’s notion of an individual historical experience with László Tengelyi’s phenomenological experiments with experience and let Tengelyi speak where Ankersmit “stops talking”. As a result, with the help of Tengelyi, an aperture can be found in language through which experience might worm its way. Due to this fissure, experience might be regarded as an invisible driving force behind linguistic expressions, and thus behind historical writing.

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