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Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation$
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Frank Ankersmit

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450716

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450716.001.0001

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(p.1) Chapter 1 Historicism
Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation

Frank Ankersmit

Cornell University Press

This chapter contends that the historicism of Leopold von Ranke and Wilhelm von Humboldt was formulated in the idealist and romanticist idiom of the 1820s and 1830s, which can no longer satisfy us in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Their argument therefore needs to be translated into more contemporary terms. Doing this is a major part of the project in this book. The chapter goes on to discuss historicism and Neo-Kantianism; Richard Rorty's thoughts on Heidegger and Anglo-Saxon philosophy of language; and the tradition of German historicism. It argues that however doubtful the ancestry of the notion of the historical idea may be, it remains indispensable for a proper understanding of the writing of history. It is the legacy of historicism to all later philosophy of history, and the price to be paid for ignoring it is to dream away in scientistic illusions. Universal History and the historical idea should no longer be regarded as the products of speculative thought nor as entities in the past quietly awaiting their historical investigation. Instead, they lead their life only in the domain of historical representation.

Keywords:   Leopold von Ranke, Wilhelm von Humboldt, historical writing, historicism, Richard Rorty, Heidegger, language, historicity, Neo-Kantianism

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