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The Role of Joint Experience in Historical Narratives

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There are historical events which cannot easily be made sense of by reference to the actions of single individuals. I suggest that one way to understand such events is by building on the involved agents’ joint experience, or reports thereof. The phenomenology of joint involvement, so my suggestion, is of use in a particular kind of sense making that combines hermeneutical and explanatory elements. Such sense making, I argue, is narrative in character. I suggest a particular conception of historical narratives that aligns them with what I call, taking up an idea from Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, ‘psychological realism’ — the idea that what renders stories accurate is a reality with both physical and mental characteristics. I end by illustrating my account with a historical example.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Bentley University, Email:


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