In the past two and a half decades, Frank Ankersmit has developed a complex notion of historical experience. Despite its many virtues it has at least one major difficulty: it implies a sharp separation between experience and language. This essay aims to bridge this gap, while preserving the positive aspects of Ankersmit’s theory. To do this, I will first present the ontological and epistemological implications of Ankersmit’s notion of historical experience. Next, I will present my objections to his idea. Finally, I will propose two modifications to his notion of historical experience: first, in the epistemological sense by considering historical experience as a form of Louis Mink’s configurational comprehension and, second, in the ontological sense by relating historical experience with the vitalist ontology of José Ortega y Gasset.
See especially: C. Behan McCullagh“Bias in Historical Description, Interpretation, and Explanation”History and Theory39 n.o 1 (2000) 39–66; Michel S. Roth Memory Trauma and History: Essays on Living with the Past (New York Columbia University Press 2012) 293 especially chapter 10 “Ebb Tide: Frank Ankersmit”; Paul A. Roth “Whistling History: Ankersmit’s Neo-Tractarian Theory of Historical Representation” paper presented at the inth Inaugural Conference Ghent July 2013 (full draft available in http://www.inth.ugent.be/?page_id=3912); Peter P. Icke Frank Ankersmit’s lost historical cause: a journey from language to experience (New York: Routledge 2012).