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Yaron, G.

Auteur: Gili Yaron

Afstudeerjaar: 2009

Vakgroep: Geschiedenis van de filosofie en Praktische filosofie

Titel: Writing a History of the Present


The past is an elusive object, historiography a contested discipline. Is it possible to approach past realities `as they are´ through the subjective looking glass of contemporary mind sets? And how is history relevant for issues we are currently faced with? Moreover: what are the normative implications of such ventures into ages long gone? Can we do justice to the past; can the past do justice to us? Different historians answer these questions differently. In arranging the variety of possible approaches to the writing of history along a conceptual spectrum, the one extreme would feature actualizing perspectives that treat historical actors as contemporaries: as conversational partners with whom one could engage in hypothetical - though no less fruitful - exchanges on issues currently on the agenda. At the other end of the spectrum, one would find contextualizing approaches to historiography which typically seek to understand historical texts as determined by their own unique settings. In this thesis I will compare Michel Foucault´s (1926-1984) views on the writing of history to Richard Rorty´s (1931-2007). How do these two prominent 20th century intellectuals approach historiography? What is their position upon our conceptual scale? And how do they conceptualize the objective and normative aspects of writing history? Answering these questions requires somewhat of an historical journey: in my thesis, I first review Rorty´s case for his own favorite historiographic method: a mix of Geistesgeschichte and intellectual history. Without falling back to either anachronism or contextualism, essentialism or relativism, Rorty argues, intellectual Geistesgeschichte provides us with a canon of heroes and classical texts which grant a much-needed sense of belongingness, continuity and progress. Foucault´s histories, for Rorty, can in fact be seen as a typical intellectual Geistesgeschichte. Is Rorty´s reading of Foucault an accurate one? In order to answer this question, as well as the ones posed above, I next explore (the development of) Foucault´s approach to the writing of history. In his archaeologies and, later, his genealogies, the French author is constantly problematizing the present field of possible human experiences. By exposing the manifold and divergent historical roots of these seemingly natural and obvious modes of existence, Foucault´s `ontology of the present´ offers a historical critique of our being right here at this moment and reveals it to be anything but inevitable. Finally, I compare and evaluate Rorty´s and Foucault´s approaches to the writing of history. Which of the two manages to abide this scrutiny and convince me of his case? Read my thesis and find out..

Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 14:20