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PHD-DESIGN  January 2008

PHD-DESIGN January 2008

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Subject:

The Entailments of History -- [Was: language and fiction]

From:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 01:00:47 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (439 lines)

Dear Klaus,

Thanks for your post. After Lubomir's note, I was 
thinking of saying that I, too, would give this 
thread a rest. You've asked a fair question, 
though, and this deserves a response. What 
follows seems straightforward to me, so plain 
that some readers will think me foolish for even 
stating this. For anyone tired of this, my 
apologies.

In your last post, you wrote:

--snip--

in logical terms: "if A = X and B entails X 
(having been stated separately) it follows that A 
entails X."

--snip--

The problem is that this was not your original 
syllogism. In your original syllogism, you said,

If A entails X and B entails X, then A = B.

where

A is (fiction)

B is (history)

X is (created, composed, sorted out and rearranged for others to make sense of)

My argument is that both fiction and history -- A 
and B -- have other, different, entailments.

Following this post, I include the etymology and 
definitions of "fiction" and "history" from 
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and the 
Oxford English Dictionary. There are 
commonalities and common points in etymology and 
meaning -- just as you argue. But some of these 
are now obsolete or archaic, and the general 
meaning of each word is conditioned by key 
factors. I see these key factors as the 
entailments of each term. There may be more 
entailments, but these are necessary and 
sufficient for the argument that follows. They 
are necessary for historiography and writing 
history, but they may not be sufficient for 
historiographic practice and writing history.

These are the symbols for the entailments summarized in these definitions.

T is (truth claim)

E is (evidentiary foundation)

IT is (irrelevance of truth)

IE is (irrelevance of evidence)

DR is (acknowledged disregard for reality as 
comprehensive condition of the work)

RR is (acknowledged goal of representing reality 
as comprehensive condition of the work)

A entails X + IT + IE + DR

B entails X + T + E + RR

therefore

A =/= B

A is not equal to B

The purposes, processes, and content of writing 
fiction differ to those of writing history. Two 
common entailments to not create an equality 
between fiction and history because the other 
entailments differ.

Before wrapping this up, I'll address two issues.

In your last post, you wrote:

--snip--

in logical terms: "if A = X and B entails X 
(having been stated separately) it follows that A 
entails X."

--snip--

This is also incorrect.

The correct syllogism would be:

If A = X and B entails X, then B entails A.

The equivalent syllogism would be

If X = A and B entails X then B entails A.

But this is only true if A = X, that is, if they are the same.

This is not your original syllogism. Your original claim was

A entails X and B entails X, therefore A = B.

There is a second problem. The original syllogism 
did not state that entailment X (created, 
composed, sorted out and rearranged for others to 
make sense of) is the ONLY entailment of either.

If you parse your original sentence in a specific 
way, then you are saying that A = B >>with<< the 
"claim that it is based on what happened." If you 
want to sort out all those added entailments 
carefully, you have to acknowledge that this 
involves more than a single WITH.

Those other entailments of purpose, process, and 
content are the stuff of history.

Now I do not and never did claim that an 
historian records as a video camera might record. 
If one were able to do so, which is not the case, 
it would not be history. History requires 
creation, composition, sorting, and arrangement 
along with all those other entailments I describe 
and more besides.

But evidence has something to do with it. Victor 
mentioned the Holocaust. What do we see when we 
look at those dead bodies piled up like raked 
leaves in the films of liberated camps? What do 
we see when we look at those walking skeletons in 
their threadbare, striped uniforms? Did something 
"happen" here? When we argue that something 
"happened" here, it is merely a "claim." When an 
historian states that this was a death camp, that 
crimes took place here, is this nothing more than 
a fiction "with the claim that it is based on 
what happened".

I mentioned the invasion of Iraq the issue of 
civilian deaths. Again, something "happened" 
here. At least the World Health Organization 
thinks so, and so do the editors and reviewers at 
Nature. Is this merely a "claim"? In my view a 
"claim" in which history and fiction got confused 
took place when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney 
claimed that the Iraqis "helped Al Quaida destroy 
the World Trade Center." When everyone realized 
that Hussein and bin Laden weren't on speaking 
terms, they changed the story to "weapons of mass 
destruction." As head of the United Nations 
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection 
Commission, Hans Blix sought evidence for this 
claim and found none.

The reason I bring these examples up again is 
that it seems to me you have avoided addressing 
examples that make it difficult to hold the 
position that history is fiction. Few of us on 
this list have been personally affected by these 
incidents in a direct way that we can directly 
attribute to either the Holocaust or the invasion 
of Iraq. Surely there are some who have been, but 
these must be few of the 1400 or so subscribers. 
By direct, I mean, there we were, we witnessed 
it, what we witnessed or what happened required 
us to respond in some way comparable to an 
affordance. So what are we to make of these 
examples? Those films? The global dismay and 
turbulence arising from the invasion? Perhaps 
it's only just a story -- I mean something 
happened, sure, but we never really met those 
people who vanished in either event, so how do we 
know that either event actually took place? All 
most of us know about the invasion or the 
Holocaust comes from accounts that other people 
have assembled. These accounts are imperfect, 
often inconsistent, and generally based on 
evidence that in many cases is not first hand. Is 
this "fiction"?

History involves evidence and facts imperfectly 
understood and always interpreted through a 
personal framework. The assertion of history is 
that history involves things that happened, no 
matter how imperfectly we understand or report 
those happenings. History involves a specific 
kind of claim: a truth claim. I'd argue that 
there is a difference between this imperfect and 
never fully reliable truth and fiction. It is a 
truth that we never fully know and a truth that 
we understand differently with every new 
interpretation, and it is nevertheless different 
to fiction.

This is far from design research. I answered because you asked.

Yours,

Ken

--

Klaus Krippendorff wrote:

>you say, quoting me:
>>Your concluding "if" takes the form of an incorrect syllogism: "if fiction
>is created, composed, sorted out and rearranged for others to make sense of,
>as i suggested, history is fiction with the claim that it is based on what
>happened."<
>
>in logical terms: "if A = X and B entails X (having been stated separately)
>it follows that A entails X."  if you consider this to be an incorrect
>syllogism then i have no understanding of your logic.
>
>could your opposition to what we have been discussing be explained in terms
>of incompatible logics?

[in response to:]

Ken Friedman wrote:

>Your concluding "if" takes the form of an incorrect syllogism: "if fiction
>is created, composed, sorted out and rearranged for others to make sense of,
>as i suggested, history is fiction with the claim that it is based on what
>happened."
>
>It is true that fiction is "created, composed, sorted out and rearranged for
>others to make sense of." It is false that everything "created, composed,
>sorted out and rearranged for others to make sense of" is fiction. That's
>like saying, "if grass is green and my cousin's car is green, my cousin's
>car is grass." Or, as John Z.
>Langrish (2000) used this kind of false syllogism in the title of a
>memorable article in which he noted that even though a fork is made of steel
>and a battleship made of steel, a fork is not a battleship.
>Sharing a common property does not make fiction and history the same thing.

[in response to:]

Klaus Krippendorff wrote:

>if fiction is created, composed, sorted out and rearranged for others to
>make sense of, as i suggested, history is fiction with the claim that it is
>based on what happened. their representational truth is not accessible.


Linguistic appendices:

Fiction defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

Etymology: Middle English ficcioun, from Middle 
French fiction, from Latin fiction-, fictio act 
of fashioning, fiction, from fingere to shape, 
fashion, feign -- more at DOUGH -- 1 a : 
something invented by the imagination or feigned; 
specifically : an invented story b : fictitious 
literature (as novels or short stories) c : a 
work of fiction; especially : NOVEL 2 a : an 
assumption of a possibility as a fact 
irrespective of the question of its truth <a 
legal fiction> b : a useful illusion or pretense 
3 : the action of feigning or of creating with 
the imagination

History defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

Etymology: Latin historia, from Greek, inquiry, 
history, from histOr, istOr knowing, learned; 
akin to Greek eidenai to know -- more at WIT 1 : 
TALE, STORY 2 a : a chronological record of 
significant events (as affecting a nation or 
institution) often including an explanation of 
their causes b : a treatise presenting 
systematically related natural phenomena c : an 
account of a patient's medical background d : an 
established record <a prisoner with a history of 
violence> 3 : a branch of knowledge that records 
and explains past events <medieval history> 4 a : 
events that form the subject matter of a history 
b : events of the past c : one that is finished 
or done for <the winning streak was history> 
<you're history> d : previous treatment, 
handling, or experience (as of a metal)


Fiction defined by the Oxford English Dictionary:

Etymology: a. Fr. fiction (= Pr. fiction, ficxio, 
Sp. ficcion), ad. L. ficti{omac}n-em, n. of 
action f. fing{ebreve}re to fashion or form: see 
FEIGN.]

1. a. The action of fashioning or imitating. Obs. 
b. Arbitrary invention. c. concr. That which is 
fashioned or framed; a device, a fabric. 2. 
Feigning, counterfeiting; deceit, dissimulation, 
pretence. Obs. 3. a. The action of 'feigning' or 
inventing imaginary incidents, existences, states 
of things, etc., whether for the purpose of 
deception or otherwise. (The reproachful sense [= 
'fabrication'] is merely contextual.) b. That 
which, or something that, is imaginatively 
invented; feigned existence, event, or state of 
things; invention as opposed to fact. c. A 
statement or narrative proceeding from mere 
invention; such statements collectively. 4. a. 
The species of literature which is concerned with 
the narration of imaginary events and the 
portraiture of imaginary characters; fictitious 
composition. Now usually, prose novels and 
stories collectively; the composition of works of 
this class. b. A work of fiction; a novel or 
tale. Now chiefly in depreciatory use; cf. 3b. 5. 
A supposition known to be at variance with fact, 
but conventionally accepted for some reason of 
practical convenience, conformity with 
traditional usage, decorum, or the like.  a. in 
Law. Chiefly applied to those feigned statements 
of fact which the practice of the courts 
authorized to be alleged by a plaintiff in order 
to bring his case within the scope of the law or 
the jurisdiction of the court, and which the 
defendant was not allowed to disprove. Fictions 
of this kind are now almost obsolete in England, 
the objects which they were designed to serve 
having been for the most part attained by the 
amendment of the law. b. gen. (chiefly transf.) 
6. Comb., as fiction-character, -mint, -monger, 
-writer, -writing. Hence {sm}fiction v. trans. 
and intr. To feign; to fictionize; to admit of 
being fictionized. rare. {sm}fictioned ppl. a.

History defined by the Oxford English Dictionary:

Etymology: [ad. L. historia narrative of past 
events, account, tale, story, a. Gr. a learning 
or knowing by inquiry, an account of one's 
inquiries, narrative, history, f. - knowing, 
learned, wise man, judge, f. - to know. (The form 
histoire was from F.) Cf. STORY, an aphetic form 
of history.]

1. A relation of incidents (in early use, either 
true or imaginary; later only of those 
professedly true); a narrative, tale, story. Obs. 
(exc. as applied to a story or tale so long and 
full of detail, as to resemble a history in sense 
2.) 2. spec. A written narrative constituting a 
continuous methodical record, in order of time, 
of important or public events, esp. those 
connected with a particular country, people, 
individual, etc. Chronicles, annals, are simpler 
or more rudimentary forms of history, in which 
the events of each year, or other limited period, 
are recorded before passing on to those of the 
next year or period, the year or period being the 
primary division; whereas in a history, strictly 
so called, each movement, action, or chain of 
events is dealt with as a whole, and pursued to 
its natural termination, or to a convenient 
halting-point, without regard to these divisions 
of time. -- drum-and-trumpet history, a 
contemptuous term for a history that gives undue 
prominence to battles and wars. 3. (Without a or 
pl.) That branch of knowledge which deals with 
past events, as recorded in writings or otherwise 
ascertained; the formal record of the past, esp. 
of human affairs or actions; the study of the 
formation and growth of communities and nations. 
In this sense often divided, for practical 
convenience, into Ancient and Modern, or Ancient, 
MediŠval, and Modern History. These have no very 
definite chronological limits; but Ancient 
History is usually reckoned as ending with the 
fall of the Western Roman Empire in A.D. 476. 
MediŠval, when separated from Modern History, is 
usually brought down to the period of the Oceanic 
discoveries in the 15th c. 'Ancient History' is 
also humorously used in the sense of 'matters 
which are out of date, or which no longer form 
part of practical politics', and colloq. of 
comparatively recent events which are regarded as 
nevertheless far back in a person's experience. 
The Muse of History, Clio, one of the Nine Muses, 
represented as the patroness of History; also 
often put for a personification of History. 4. 
transf. {dag}a. A series of events (of which the 
story is or may be told). Obs. b. The whole train 
of events connected with a particular country, 
society, person, thing, etc., and forming the 
subject of his or its history (in sense 2); 
course of existence or life, career. Also in 
pregnant sense, An eventful career; a course of 
existence worthy of record. (See also 
LIFE-HISTORY.) c. (Without a or pl.) The 
aggregate of past events in general; the course 
of events or human affairs. to make history: to 
influence or guide the course of history; also, 
to do something spectacular or worthy of 
remembrance (see history-maker, -making, sense 
9). 5. A systematic account (without reference to 
time) of a set of natural phenomena, as those 
connected with a country, some division of nature 
or group of natural objects, a species of animals 
or plants, etc. Now rare, exc. in NATURAL 
HISTORY. [In this sense following the similar use 
of -- by Aristotle and other Greek writers, and 
of historia by Pliny.] 6.    {dag}a. A story 
represented dramatically, a drama. Obs.    b. 
spec. A drama representing historical events, a 
historical play. 7. A pictorial representation of 
an event or series of incidents; in 18th c. a 
historical picture.  Â8. Eccl. = L. historia, 
liturgically applied    (a) to a series of 
lessons from Scripture, named from the first 
words of the Respond to the first lesson;    (b) 
to the general order of a particular Office. 
Misunderstood and erroneously explained in Rock 
Ch. of Fathers IV. xii. 124: see Proctor & 
Wordsworth Sarum Breviary, Index to Fasc. 1, 11. 
9. attrib. and Comb., as history-master, -mill, 
-monger, paper, -play, -professor, -wise, writer; 
{dag}history faith, 'historical' faith (see 
HISTORICAL 2); history-maker, (a) a writer of a 
history; (b) one who 'makes history', i.e. 
performs important actions which shape the course 
of history; so history-making a. and vbl. n.; 
history-painter, one who paints 'histories' 
(sense 7); so history-painting, history-piece.

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