The Expression of Historical Experience

The theory and philosophy of history (just like philosophy in general) has established a dogmatic dilemma regarding the issue of language and experience: either you have an immediate experience separated from language, or you have language without any experiential basis. In other words, either you have an immediate experience that is and must remain mute and ineffable, or you have language and linguistic conceptualization that precedes experience, provides the condition of possibility of it, and thus, in a certain sense, produces it. Either you join forces with the few and opt for such mute experiences, or you go with the flow of narrative philosophy of history and the impossibility of immediacy. Either way, you end up postulating a mutual hostility between the nonlinguistic and language, and, more important, you remain unable to account for new insights and change. Contrary to this and in relation to history, I am going to talk about something nonlinguistic—historical experience—and about how such historical experience could productively interact with language in giving birth to novel historical representations. I am going to suggest that, under a theory of expression, a more friendly relationship can be established between experience and language: a relationship in which they are not hostile to but rather desperately need each other. To explain the occurrence of new insights and historiographical change, I will talk about a process of expression as sense-formation and meaning-constitution in history, and condense the theory into a struck-through “of,” as the expression of historical experience.