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On referring to something, meaning something, and truth: A terminological proposal

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores how human speech refers to non-linguistic reality, and whose experience are we looking for. We should be aware of the inaccuracies of sense perception, which are as great as those of memory. The chapter aims to present the language, ancient and modern, that helps historians to know better what they deal with and not to get lost in pseudo-problems, meaning the problems created by inappropriate language. Leaving the problem of lying to the methods of ordinary inquiry, especially cross-questioning of witnesses, and admitting a fringe of incertitude in all we get to know of other's thoughts and acts, we can avoid self-illusions by means of a clear terminology related to past events. The historian cannot avoid taking the responsibility of what he or she purports in their analyses or accounts. Modern means of communication in print allow us to present our sources in an unprecedented completeness.

Keywords: human speech; inappropriate language; incertitude; non-linguistic reality; self-illusions; sense perception

10.1163/ej.9789004150089.i-471.10
/content/books/10.1163/ej.9789004150089.i-471.10
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