The Being of History, the Play of Différance and the Problem of Misunderstanding

Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, Philosophia 58 (3):179-190 (2013)
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Abstract

Beginning with the second decade of the last century, after a fierce critique of W. Dilthey and the Historical School’s epistemological approach, philosophical hermeneutics has assumed the position of “official” philosophy of history of our times. However, in our previous work we have shown that philosophical hermeneutics is not actually able to give a better answer to “What is history?” than that already offered by the Historical School. Now we would like to show that its answer to the other fundamental question of the philosophy of history - “How is history to be known?” - is even more problematic, making historical science impossible. For if the being of history really is tradition as philosophical hermeneutics argues, and if the essence of tradition is language then, on the one hand, the very stability of historical meaning presupposed by any epistemological process will always be displaced by the play of what Derrida calls “différance,” the ceaseless differentiation of the signifiers and signifieds. And, on the other hand, even if historical meaning were stable enough so as to be known, it could not be grasped because, we will try to argue, the process of understanding as philosophical hermeneutics describes it is always permeated by misunderstanding.

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Adrian Costache
Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj

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