Georg Gangl presenting in ”History of Experience: Methodologies and Practices” conference

  The History of Experiences: A history like anything else?

March, 2, at 15:30, HEX conference ”History of Experience: Methodologies and Practices” in Tampere

Georg Gangl discusses

The History of Experiences: A history like anything else?


Experiences have traditionally been given short shrift in historiography and in recent decades lost much of their defining quality in philosophy too. They are often thought of as fleeting, difficult to document, and unreliable and at best only of passing or anecdotal interest in scientific enquiries. However, there is no reason why past experiences should not be the object of a properly conceived (scientific) historiography. While not all history is the history of experiences, I argue that historiography has a common core consisting of ontological presuppositions and epistemic procedures that apply just as well to the study of past experiences as to any other object of historiographic interest. Concretely, I propose a mechanismic account of (social) reality locating experiences at the upper edge of agency and an informational and coherentist account of knowledge and justification through which we can deal with the evidence of past experiences just like with any other form of historical evidence. From this perspective, past experiences might be scrutinized with very different methods—qualitatively, quantitatively including Big Data approaches—depending on the research interest at hand.

The history of experiences incurs in this sense no special problems for historiography or its philosophy and can be considered a normal part of the discipline, though there are other reasons why it might be deemed of special interest to historians and a wider public.


Last updated: 14.2.2020