The Voice of the Past in the Present

A dialogue is not only concerned with speaking with other people about something, but also includes a speaking for those who can no longer speak as well as for their opinions. In this first part of this essay, in discussion with authors such as Gadamer, Ricoeur and Derrida, I will show in which sense the dimension of speaking for... is part of a hermeneutic conception of dialogue and in which sense this speaking for... helps me in applying the model of dialogue to relation of the historian to the past. In the second part of this essay, I develop this model of dialogue to account for the historian’s activity in terms of the notions of testimony and witnessing. I show how these notions determine the course of Ricoeur’s later reflections on the philosophy of history and why these reflections may benefit from a reconsideration of Gadamer’s conception of generosity and experience.