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Abstract

This paper argues for a new version of holism about historiography. The argument starts with an analogy with Aristotle’s conceptions of soul and character. The aim is to overcome the central problem critics have identified in Ankersmit’s holism about historical representations: it is not clear how a posited holistic entity can make a difference to a work of history. The solution offered in this paper is that there are two – modally distinct – dimensions of content in works of history. One comprises its explicit content as given in its statements. This corresponds to actuality, action, and narrative in Aristotle. The other is where we find a holistic entity: a work of history’s representation of a historical situation. This is analysed here as a unified range of possibilities for action generated by the interrelated complex of factors introduced by the work’s explicit contents. This corresponds to potentiality, soul, and character in Aristotle. The theory is further developed in relation to two examples, one idealized, the other an example of real historiography. By distinguishing between actuality and possibility as dimensions of a historical representation, the holistic entity is enabled to be implicit while having real importance in relation to the content of historiography.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

Abstract

This paper takes as a starting-point the ostensibly enormous distance between Frank Ankersmit’s Leibnizian concerns in the philosophy of historiography and the contents of works of history. Sections 1, 2 and 3 display this distance by juxtaposing the details of a historical example with the basic features of Leibniz’ philosophy and Ankersmit’s mediation of it. Section 4 discusses the relationship between Ankersmit’s Leibniz-inspired apriorism and empirical historiography. Sections 5 and 6 explain the Leibnizian logic standing behind Ankersmit’s ideas about historical representations as self-sufficient semantic (“intensional”) objects. Sections 7 and 8 consider some objections to Ankersmit’s Leibnizism and his likely replies. Section 9 emphasises just how committing is Ankersmit’s claim that historical representations are “strong individuals”. A final comment on how to view the distance between Ankersmit’s Leibnizism and the contents of works of history is offered in section 10.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History

I begin here by discussing the role of Leibniz in historical thought, particularly in Frank Ankersmit’s representationalist philosophy of historiography. I then discuss Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen’s recent criticism of Ankersmit’s commitment to holism about the semantics of historiography. I argue that the criticism fails because Kuukkanen is not sufficiently sensitive to the Leibnizian foundation of Ankersmit’s holism. Ankersmit can absorb Kuukkanen’s criticisms into his Leibnizism. I conclude by suggesting that the philosophy of historiography needs to be connected to substantial projects in the philosophical criticism of historiography.

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History