Koselleck’s Futures Past

Reinhart Koselleck

Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies


·      What is historical time?

·      Seek out the linguistic organization of temporal experience wherever this surfaces in past reality

Xvi: “More generally, there is much common ground between Gadamer’s T&M and the basic, interpretative framework within which Koselleck moves.  Shared by T&M and these essays is the construction of a hermeneutic procedure that places understanding as a historical and experimental act in relation to entities which themselves possess historical force, as well as a point of departure in the experience of the work of art and the constitution of an aesthetics.  Gadamer elaborates aesthetic experience by examining the development of the concept Erlebnis, or experience in the sense of lived encounter.  This term was developed in response to Enlightenment rationalism and is characteristic of an aesthetics centered upon the manifestation of the ‘truth’ of a work of art through the experience of the subject.  Gadamer then asks: what kind of knowledge is produced in this way?  There is a discontinuity between modern philosophy and the classical tradition: the development of a historical consciousness in the 19th century made philosophy aware of its own historical formation, creating a break in the Western tradition of an incremental path to knowledge that had hitherto shaped philosophical discussion.  Koselleck takes up this problem and presents it as a historical, rather than philosophical, question: What kind of experience is opened up by the emergence of modernity?”

1: “The sources of the past do inform us about thoughts and deeds, plans and events, but they provide no direct indication of historical time.”

3:  “All testimony answers to the problem of how, in a concrete situation, experiences come to terms with the past; how expectations, hopes, or prognoses that are projected into the future become articulated into language.  These essays will constantly ask: how, in a given present, are the temporal dimensions of past and future related?”

4: “Methodologically, these studies direct themselves to the semantics of central concepts in which historical experience of time is implicated.  Here, the collective concept ‘History,’ coined in the 18th century, has preeminent meaning.”


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