Conversely, mainstream philosophical theories would benefit from confronting the problems of the philosophies of history and historiography. Solving the problems of the philosophies of historiography and history requires considering historiography as continuous with philosophy. This approach is exemplified by examining metaphysical issues in the philosophy of history—historical contingency, necessity, determination, causation, over-determination, and under-determination—as well as investigating the epistemology of testimony for its relevance to the epistemology of our knowledge of the past.
Inference from multiple testimonies is a particular case of a general model of inference, one in which scientists infer a common cause from multiple sources of evidence that preserve similar information about their common causes. The historical sciences—history, phylogeny, evolutionary biology, comparative historical linguistics, and cosmology—all infer common causes or origins. The theoretical sciences are not interested in any particular token event, but in types of events, whereas, in contrast, the historical sciences attempt to infer common-cause tokens.
The main reasons for the absence of decisive progress in the philosophy of historiography along the promising directions the article outlines are external: random, adverse institutional and market conditions that block the professionalization of the field. This essay renews a discussion of how historians do, and should, represent atrocity. It argues that the problems of representing extreme violence remain under-conceptualized; in this context it discusses the strengths and weaknesses of minimalism, a style prevalent both in historiography and in an intellectual culture that values understatement in approaches to violence.
Finally, it asks historians to reflect upon the representation of extreme events by focusing on narrative style, on questions of ethics, and on the cultural narratives within which their own work on suffering and violence is inevitably embedded—especially given that historians are paying increasing attention to violent events that generate tremendous difficulties in relation to the representation both of victims and perpetrators. This article critically examines this assumption. Digitization and the internet offer new technologies for producing and disseminating historical knowledge and, in the process, present both opportunities and challenges to professional historians.
Beyond their practical implications, the digital media also provide a new theoretical model for viewing historical narrative in terms of its social production by multiple agents across different platforms, and this can change our understanding both of past and of future practices.
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This essay reflects on the future of world history by reflecting on its past. However, since the Iberians had deliberately cultivated a form of amnesia regarding this historiography as a result of the so-called Reconquest, new modes and methods of appropriation had to be found. Further, whereas medieval contact had largely been with materials in Arabic, the sixteenth-century world was far more centrally concerned with materials in Persian. Equally, access to European historical writings in Latin had some impact on Indo-Persian chroniclers at the Mughal court and elsewhere.
All in all, the essay suggests that the past of such historical writing was crucially mediated by philological practice. Nor can philology be neglected for future projects in the writing of world history or global history. The essay thus questions the presumptions of both neo-skeptics, who neglect how historians have worked in the past, and of scientistic historians, who oppose the central place of humanistic disciplines in the future writing of history.
This neglect seems paradoxical, considering the remarkable transformations that have taken place in world capitalism during this same period. I trace the neglect to the capture of the once interdisciplinary field of economic history by mathematically inclined economists and to the roughly simultaneous turn of historians from social to cultural history. I conclude by suggesting some topics in the history of economic life that seem both timely and exciting. I also suggest some intellectual resources that other disciplines, particularly economic sociology and economic history, could offer should historians decide to tackle the history of economic life once again.
Lately, the concept of experience, which postmodernist theoreticians declared dead, has seen a renaissance. The immediacy of experience seems to offer the possibility of reaching beyond linguistic discourses. This paper takes up the recent interest in experience, but argues against the opposition to narrative into which experience tends to be cast. The relation between experience and narrative is more complex than is widely assumed. Besides representing and giving shape to experience, narratives are received in the form of a reception experience.
Through their temporal structure, narratives are crucial to letting us re-experience the past as well as to representing the experiences of historical agents. In a final step, the paper turns toward modern historians—most of whom are reluctant to use the means of fiction—to briefly survey their attempts at restoring the openness of the past.
This article scrutinizes the origins of the new paradigm in the context of a burgeoning modernization discourse in reform-era China. It further examines the fundamental divides between the two types of historiography in their respective constructions of master narratives and their different approaches to representing historical events in modern China. Many authors, both scholarly and otherwise, have asked what might have happened had Walter Benjamin survived his attempt to escape Nazi-occupied Europe.
It also explores the larger question of why few intellectual historians ask explicitly counterfactual questions in their work. While counterfactuals have proven invaluable for scholars in diplomatic, military, and economic history, those writing about the history of ideas often seem less concerned with chains of events and contingency than some of their colleagues are—or they attend to contingency in a selective fashion. Thus this essay attends to the ambivalence about the category of contingency that runs through much work in intellectual history.
The effort to ask this question reveals one methodological advantage of counterfactual inquiry: the effort to ask such questions often serves as an excellent guide to the prejudices and interests of the historian asking them. By engaging in counterfactual thought experiments, intellectual historians could restore an awareness of sheer contingency to the stories we tell about the major texts and debates of intellectual history.
By analyzing books about manners that had been published between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, Elias observed changing conceptions of shame and embarrassment with respect to, among other things, bodily propriety and violence. To explain those developments, Elias examined the interplay among the rise of state monopolies of power, increasing levels of economic interconnectedness among people, and pressures to become attuned to others over greater distances that led to advances in identifying with others in the same society irrespective of social origins.
The investigation also focused on the division of Europe into sovereign states that were embroiled in struggles for power and security. Only by placing short-term trends in long-term perspective could sociologists understand contemporary developments. However, his attempt to improve on these efforts relies on functional explanations that themselves oversimplify the lessons of neuroscience. In addition, like explanations in evolutionary psychology, they are highly speculative and cannot be confirmed or disproved by evidence.
Neuroscience research is too diverse to yield a single picture of brain functioning. At the same time, historians are well advised to remain wary of the pitfalls of functionalism. He does this, first, by illustrating the difference between real and merely claimed evidence and, then, by giving an analysis of the underlying nature of evidence in historical accounts. What matters, rather, is whether they are doing interesting things and doing them well. Six questions are outlined and then responded to about Holocaust denial. Was the crisis of historicism an exclusively German affair?
Answering both questions in the negative, this paper argues that crises of historicism affected not merely intellectual elites, but even working-class people, not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands. Based on this Dutch case study, then, the article develops two arguments. In a quantitative mode, it argues that more and different people suffered from the crisis of historicism than is usually assumed. This formulation is actually misleading, missing the core of the transformation produced in the field.
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It is not true that the history of ideas simply ignored the fact that the meaning of ideas changes over time. The issue at stake here is really not how ideas changed the mere description of the semantic transformation they underwent historically , but rather why they do. The study of the German tradition of intellectual history serves in this essay as a basis to illustrate the meaning and significance of the recent turn from ideas as its object. In the process of trying to account for the source of contingency of conceptual formations, it will open our horizon to the complex nature of the ways by which we invest the world with meaning.
In sum, it will show why historicity is not merely something that comes to intellectual history from without as a by-product of social history or as the result of the action of an external agent , as the history of ideas assumed, but is a constitutive dimension of it. Koselleck is well-known for his work on conceptual history as well as for his theory of historical time s. This can be shown through an examination of his writings from Critique and Crisis to his final essays on historical anthropology, most of which have not yet been translated into English.
The interviews address the challenges presented to historians by research in the neurosciences and the like, highlighting the distinctive contributions offered by a historical approach. History and Theory 49 February , Surely one of the key issues in historiography is how to account for those mind-boggling and sometimes extremely bloody events in which we enter something really, sublimely new.
In order to get a grip on the evanescent essence of the historical sublime, I propose to bring to a head, instead of leveling down, the tension that characterizes all historical and biographical discontinuities: the tension between the fact that discontinuities are made by the participants, yet are portrayed by these very participants as having come as a surprise.
I will argue that discontinuity is not a regrettable side-effect of our ambition to attain goals that are in line with our identity, but that every now and then we give in to the urge to cut ourselves loose from our moorings. Vertigo may feel like a fear of falling, but really it is a wish to jump, covered by a fear of falling.
Contemporary caution against anachronism in intellectual history, and the currently momentous theoretical emphasis on subjectivity in the philosophy of mind, are two prevailing conditions that set puzzling constraints for studies in the history of philosophical psychology. The former urges against assuming ideas, motives, and concepts that are alien to the historical intellectual setting under study, and combined with the latter suggests caution in relying on our intuitions regarding subjectivity due to the historically contingent characterizations it has attained in contemporary philosophy of mind.
In the face of these conditions, our paper raises a question of what we call non-textual as opposed to contextual standards of interpretation of historical texts, and proceeds to explore subjectivity as such a standard. Non-textual standards are defined as heuristic postulations of features of the world or our experience of it that we must suppose to be immune to historical variation in order to understand a historical text. Although the postulation of such standards is often so obvious that the fact of our doing so is not noticed at all, we argue that the problems in certain special cases, such as that of subjectivity, force us to pay attention to the methodological questions involved.
Taking into account both recent methodological discussion and the problems inherent in two de facto denials of the relevance of subjectivity for historical theories, we argue that there are good grounds for the adoption of subjectivity as a non-textual standard for historical work in philosophical psychology. Counterfactualism is a useful process for historians as a thought-experiment because it offers grounds to challenge an unfortunate contemporary historical mindset of assumed, deterministic certainty.
This article suggests that the methodological value of counterfactualism may be understood in terms of the three categories of common ahistorical errors that it may help to prevent: the assumptions of indispensability , causality , and inevitability.
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To support this claim, I survey a series of key counterfactual works and reflections on counterfactualism, arguing that the practice of counterfactualism evolved as both cause and product of an evolving popular assumption of the plasticity of history and the importance of human agency within it. For these reasons, counterfactualism is of particular importance both historically and politically.
How do we understand China, its history and culture? What should be the appropriate paradigm or perspective for China studies? By discussing several exemplary cases in China studies, this essay argues that neither insiders nor outsiders have monopolistic or privileged access to knowledge, and that integration of different perspectives and their dynamic interaction beyond the isolation of native Chinese scholarship and Western Sinology may lead us to a better understanding of China and its history.
The paper focuses on an argument put forward by Augustine in his De doctrina christiana : there are passages in the Bible that need to be read in a literal, contextual, and ultimately rhetorical perspective. This need inspired Augustine to utter some sharp remarks on the need to avoid as we would say today ethnocentric, anachronistic projections into the Biblical text.
The paper suggests that the emphasis on a literal, contextual reading of the Bible provided a model for secular reading in general. The possible role of this model in the aggressive encounter between Europe and alien cultures is a matter of speculation. History and Theory, Theme Issue 48 December , The status of photographs as keystones of historical explanation has become a topic of urgent intellectual and cultural interest around the world, at the same time as methods of shaping historical narratives are also changing in ways that compel attention to the employment of photographs in historiography.
By exposing the questions we ought to raise about all historical evidence, photographs reveal not simply the potential and limits of photography as a historical source, but the potential and limits of all historical sources and historical inquiry as an intellectual project. As the papers in this issue make apparent, this is precisely the promise and ultimate potential of the historical study of photographs—that it pushes their interpreters to the limits of historical analysis.
This essay, which serves as an introduction to the Theme Issue, contextualizes issues raised by the articles and offers a critical synthesis of their impact on future scholarship about photography in historical analysis. When historians, archivists, and museologists turn to Eastern European photos from family albums or collections—for example, photos from the decades preceding the Holocaust and the early years of the Second World War—they seek visual evidence or illustrations of the past.
But photographs may refuse to fit expected narratives and interpretations, revealing both more and less than we expect. In responding to an essay by Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer about photographs taken in the streets of Chernivitsi Czernowitz in the s, and thus in the midst of the Holocaust, this paper seeks to link their concerns to a broader consideration of photography as a modern phenomenon. In the process, the paper provides a brief history of street photography, a genre virtually ignored in standard histories of the photographic medium.
Their account of street photography in Czernowitz thereby amounts to an interpretation of photographs as dynamic modes of apprehension rather than as static objects from the past that veridically represent it. It is precisely this aspect of photographs that makes them such unusually complicated, ambiguous, and incongruous historical objects.