THE COMMONPLACES OF “REVISION” AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR HISTORIOGRAPHICAL UNDERSTANDING

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ABSTRACT

Recognizing the contingent entanglement between historiography's social and political roles and the conception of the discipline as purely factual, this essay provides a detailed analysis of “revision” and its connection to “revisionism.” This analysis uses a philosophical approach that begins with the commonplaces of our understanding as expressed in dictionaries, which are compared and contrasted to display relevant confusions. The essay then turns to examining the questions posed by History and Theory's Call for Papers announcing its Theme Issue on Revision in History, and, where philosophically relevant, answers them. The issue of paradigm change proved to be quite significant and required particular attention. A “paradigm” is analyzed in terms of Quine's “web of belief,” and that web is itself explained as an ongoing process of revision, in analogy with Rawls's concept of pure procedural justice. Adopting this approach helps clarify the entanglement between politics and historiographical revision.

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