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Can we really tell history "as it was"? posted 31 July 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionCan we really tell history "as it was"? by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

Or perhaps argued (as I and others have done when undergoing training) by cultural historians.

Needless to say, this was a loaded question I asked above. As a self-described heretical historicist, I look at history as being not a monolithic entity that many have envisioned it being over the years, but as a fragmented sets of narratives and discourses that people have had with themselves and their understandings of what's transpired before them. In such a view, the "victors" can only present but one compelling image of an isolated past event/series of events, not anything approaching true historia, which are the meaningful stories that we tell to translate and to transfer our understandings to our friends, families, and later descendents.

The study of historical events and recordings is important, however, for whatever messages we can decode (or misread) of the past, because of the value that we place on transferring as much of our values as possible to those who follow after us. But unlike historicists before me (and I was trained in what my grad advisor joked was the Apostolic Succession of historicists from Leopold Ranke through Friedrich Meineicke down to my advisor and then myself), I reject the notion of there being a "Truth" that can be found about the past. Instead, I see there being multiple truth-values that hold weight and are valid for the inspirations they inspire in people, regardless of how "true" the events ever were.

But in that, I'm not breaking any new ground. Instead, I'd argue that I'm just merely bringing history back to historia, or to the sets of Stories that we tell to translate and transfer our cultural values to our progeny. view post


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