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Moved by the PastDiscontinuity and Historical Mutation$
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Eelco Runia

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231168205

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231168205.001.0001

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(p.49) 3 Presence
Moved by the Past

Eelco Runia

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how philosophers of history have tried to purge their discipline of attempts to establish meaning. It first considers the two parts of the philosophy of history, “critical” and “speculative,” before turning to “speculation” as an ineradicable—though zealously dissimulated—phenomenon within the discipline of the philosophy of history. It then argues that it is not meaning we want but “presence,” which is outside the philosophy of history, and that the concept of metonymy is a suitable tool for coming to grips with discontinuity and with the need for presence. More specifically, it shows that by exploring metonymy, a discourse of presence can be established that does not explain discontinuity away in some sort of “meaning,” but gives it its due. The chapter also describes metonymy as a metaphor for the simultaneousness of continuity and discontinuity and concludes by explaining how the interplay between metaphor and metonymy—termed “metonymics”—accomplishes what representationalism fails to do: to account for the relation between historiography and historical reality.

Keywords:   meaning, philosophy of history, presence, metonymy, continuity, discontinuity, metaphor, metonymics, historiography, historical reality

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