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Historical facts are not objects; rather, they are representational processes within other processes that also produced objects and left traces. These latter ones are themselves not historical facts either but are the same as historical facts in a given time and acquire meaning and significance with respect to that particular time. Therefore, the ‘historical-real’ is constitutively representational and constitutively temporal because it is a process. The question of what is a given truth in history then becomes the dilemma of creating a representative reconstruction of the process of (past) events that is close to the ‘real’ events as they are given in that specific time. Those ‘real’ events have been conceived, represented, lived, created, and narrated. The interweaving of the theory of history and the [cognitive] theory of representation is revealed as a central interlacing that could be proposed between the theory of history and the theory of narrative on the one hand and the theory of history and the theory of action on the other. From one perspective, history is about other people, other institutions, other representations and other visions of the world. It is about people who lived in different eras, who have created and inhabited different institutions, who spoke other languages, who embraced other conceptions and beliefs and so on. From another perspective, however, historians are not faced with a radical otherness. History describes people like us, but it is we who are the heirs of those cultures, those institutions, that wealth of knowledge, those skills, those beliefs and so on, and we are not without tools to recover, reproduce or re-present them.


representation historical knowledge time past reallity

Article Details

Author Biography

Assoc. Prof. Vinicio Busacchi , University of Cagliari, Italy

Vinicio Busacchi is Associate Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Department of Pedagogy, Psychology, and Philosophy at the University of Cagliari, Italy. He is codirector of Critical Hermeneutics. Biannual International Journal of Philosophy (ISSN 2533-1825). His research interests are focused in hermeneutics, epistemology of the historical-social sciences, theory of psychoanalysis and Buddhist studies. His published books include Pour une herméneutique critique (2013), The Recognition Principle: A Philosophical Perspective between Psychology, Sociology and Politics (2015); Habermas and Ricoeur’s Depth Hermeneutics: From Psychoanalysis to a Critical Human Science (2016); Philosophy & Human Revolution: Essays in Celebration of Daisaku Ikeda’s 90th Birthday (2018).  


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  2. Ricoeur, P., Memory, History, Forgetting. Trans. by K. Blamey and D. Pellauer. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2004, p. XVI.
  3. See Michel, J., ‘L’énigme de la représentance’. In F. Dosse, C. Goldenstein (eds.), Paul Ricœur: penser la mémoire, Paris : Seuil, 2013 [pp. 277-290], p. 278 ff. It is interesting to follow Johann Michel’s reasoning developed in his 2013’s paper on the représentance. He offers a perspective that goes beyond the specific ontological problem of time, opening to the general problematic of historical ontology. For an overview on Ricoeur’s methodology, see: Busacchi, V.,‘The Ricoeurian Way: Towards A Critical Hermeneutics for the Human and Social Sciences’. American International Journal of Social Sciences (AIJSS), vol. IV, n. 6, 2015, pp. 82-88; and Busacchi, V., ‘Critical Hermeneutics and the Paradigm of the Text’. 3rd Intern. Conf. on Soc. Sc. & Arts SGEM 2016: Book 3; Vol. I, SGEM: Sophia, 2016, pp. 419-426.
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  6. See Lecis, P. L., Busacchi, V., ‘L’imagination apprivoisée: représentation et factualité dans la connaissance historique’. Critical Hermeneutics, vol. 1, n. 1 (2017), pp. 125-154.
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  11. See White, H., Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University 1973.
  12. See Busacchi, V., ‘The Epistemology of Testimony: A Hermeneutical Key’. In M. Bianca, P. Piccari (eds.), Epistemology of Ordinary Knowledge. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015, pp. 394-405.
  13. ‘It is precisely because the macrohistorical vision is not abolished that we can legitimately pose the question of how representative microhistorical organizations are when considered in regard to the phenomena of power readable on the broad scale. In any case, the notion of deviation we often find in comparable contexts cannot exhaust the combinatory resources of pictures drawn at different scales. It is still higher-order systems that are considered from below. In this regard, the extension of the domain of representations of the models of long-time-span history remains legitimate within the limits of the macrohistorical point of view. There is a long time scale for the features of mentalities./ Nothing is lost from the problem Durkheim posed at the beginning of the twentieth century precisely under the title of “collective representations,” a term significantly that has reappeared following the long use of “mentality” by those associated with Annales. The Durkheimian idea of “basic norms,” which goes with those of unperceived agreements and agreement concerning the modes of agreement, retains its problematic and pragmatic force. The task is rather to place these guiding concepts in a dialectical relation to those governing the appropriation of these rules of agreement about agreement. Furthermore, mere consideration of the necessary economy of the creative forces resisting forces tending toward rupture leads to giving some credit to the idea of a customary habitus that can be assimilated to a principle of inertia, even of forgetfulness./ In this spirit, and under the heading of the scale of efficacy or of coerciveness, the problems of institutions and of norms, which each obey different contextual rules, can be considered jointly’. (Ricoeur, P., Memory, History, Forgetting, op. cit., pp. 219-220)
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  17. White, H., The Content of the Form. Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987, 1990, p. 5.
  18. White, H., The Content of the Form. Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation, op. cit., p. 20.
  19. Ankersmit, F., Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Knowledge, op. cit., p. 138.