Stephen Turner

Abstract

Louis Mink wrote a classic study of R. G. Collingwood that led to his most important contribution to the philosophy of history, his account of narrative. Central to this account was the non-detachability thesis, that facts became historical facts through incorporation into narratives, and the thesis that narratives were not comparable to the facts or to one another. His book on Collingwood was critical of Collingwood’s idea that there were facts in history that we get through self-knowledge but which are nevertheless objective, his account of re-enactment, and his notion of absolute presuppositions. It is illuminating to compare Collingwood to Weber with respect to these puzzling arguments, for the same issues arise there in different form. Recent work in social neuroscience on mirroring allows a different approach to these puzzles: mirror system “knowledge” of others and simulation fit, respectively, with Weber’s idea of direct observational understanding and Collingwood’s re-enactment account. This account allows for the detaching of historical facts about thoughts and action from narrative.

Stephen Turner

Abstract

There is a core conflict between conventional ideas about “meaning” and the phenomenon of meaning and meaning change in history. Conventional accounts are either atemporal or appeal to something fixed that bestows meaning, such as a rule or a convention. This produces familiar problems over change. Notions of rule and convention are metaphors for something tacit. They are unhelpful in accounting for change: there are no rule-givers or convenings in history. Meanings are in flux, and are part of a web of belief and practical activity that is in constant change. We can perhaps salvage some point to appeals to fixed frameworks if we treat them as “as if ” constructions designed as crutches to enable us to improve on literal readings of the texts by making more sense of the inferential connections and practical significance of their content at the time.

In the Wake of the Quake

Teaching the Emergency

Series:

Sean Sturm and Stephen Turner

Lawrence Barham, Stephen Tooth, Geoff A.T. Duller, Andrew J. Plater and Simon Turner

We report on the results of small-scale excavations at the archaeological site of Kalambo Falls, northern Zambia. The site has long been known for its stratified succession of Stone Age horizons, in particular those representing the late Acheulean (Mode 2) and early Middle Stone Age (Mode 3). Previous efforts to date these horizons have provided, at best, minimum radiometric ages. The absence of a firm chronology for the site has limited its potential contribution to our understanding of the process of technological change in the Middle Pleistocene of south-central Africa. The aim of the excavations was to collect samples for luminescence dating that bracketed archaeological horizons, and to establish the sedimentary and palaeoenvironmental contexts of the deposits. Four sedimentary packages were identified with the oldest containing Mode 2 and Mode 3 horizons. In this paper we consider the implications of the luminescence ages for the archaeological record at Kalambo Falls, and place them in a regional context. The reworking and preservation of the archaeological horizons is interpreted as the result of successive phases of meander migration and aggradation. Limited pollen evidence suggests a persistent floodplain palaeoenvironment with intermittent swamp forest and adjacent valley woodland, while mineral magnetic susceptibility data support an interpretation of river flow variability without any significant change in sediment provenance. The dynamics of the fluvial system cannot as yet be linked directly with regional climate change. The age range of ~500–300 ka for the oldest sedimentary package places the Mode 2/3 succession firmly in the Middle Pleistocene, and contributes to an expanding African record of technological innovation before the evolution of Homo sapiens.