Histcon.se Time, Memory and Representation Tid, Minne, Representation

A Multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness

Ett mångdisciplinärt forskningsprogram om historiemedvetandets förvandlingar

Staffan Carlshamre

Professor of Philosophy, Stockholm University


B. 1952. Professor in Theoretical Philosophy, Stockholm University, Deputy Chair of Department. PhD from University of Gothenburg 1987, with the dissertation Language and Time: An Attempt to Arrest the Thought of Jacques Derrida. The book Förklara och berätta vad som hänt (1995) explores the philosophy of historical narration. Part-responsible for the large project “Meaning and Interpretation”, (RJ, 1995-1999), and editor of the volume Types of types of Interpretation (2003).

Ongoing research

Carlshamre will pursue problems concerning the relation between narrative form and the content of narration, and the problem of “truth” in historical narratives. He will focus on the cognitive gains and risks of casting factual information in narrative form, not only in history proper but also, e.g., in journalism. A central question will be: what is it for a story to be true? One can give a very distorted picture of a real chain of events while keeping to the smallest detail of what actually happened. But what does it mean for the general picture given by the story to be true or false? One hint is that the “gestalt” properties that seem to characterize interesting stories – the articulation of personalities into heroes and villains, the overall patterns characteristic of tragedies, comedies, satires, etc. – all seem to presuppose a value perspective. But whose values are relevant? One reason to feel betrayed by a story is that one is trapped into valuations and identifications that are not one’s own. In this way, there seems to be something inherently relativistic about narrative truth, but there still seems to be room for arguing about the truth of stories, and for blaming some accounts for being misleading or false, even beyond the basic requirement to “get the facts right”. Carlshamres work is intended to result in a collection of articles, to be published in English.

Selected bibliography

- Förklara och berätta vad som hänt: fyra historiefilosofiska

uppsatser. Skrifter utgivna av fakultetsprogrammet Forskningens villkor, nr 1

Humanistiska fakulteten, Göteborg. (1995)

– Types of Types of Interpretation. In Carlshamre, S. and Pettersson, A., editors, Types of

Interpretation in the Aesthetic Disciplines. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003,

– Vad berättelser betyder. Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskap, no. 3-4 (2004),

– Carlshamre, S. “Art as Meaning and Manipulation”. In Kvantifikator för en Dag: Essays dedicated to Dag Westerståhl on his sixtieth birthday, volume 35 of Philosophical Communications, Web series. Department of Philosophy, Göteborg university (2006).

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