By F.R. Ankersmith

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Much of what Danto says on that subject is, in my opinion, sound and valuable, although he sometimes has a tendency to overstate his case11. Nevertheless, I will not go into this aspect of Danto’s theory of history, because it is of no consequence to the present investigation. What do, in Danto’s view, narrative sentences and the narratios formed by them look like? In general we can be sure, Danto says, that narrative sentences report the beginning and the end of a process of change of a specific object that more or less remains itself during the period of change.

Do we come across a great number of self-sufficient “narrative atoms”, adroitly arranged, when reading a narratio? I do not think so. From the individual sentence to the narratio taken as a whole we do not come across very obvious breaks; metaphorically speaking, we wander through a continuous density. Moreover, the problems historians have to struggle with in constructing their narratios lie at the macrolevel rather than at the microlevel introduced by this proposal. Therefore, its prospects are not bright.

36 This consideration explains, perhaps, why the pragmatist’s proposal has had so many adherents. No doubt Nietzsche was its most extreme defender. He strongly insisted that the historian should serve Life — “das Leben” — that is, present and future action and to that end should not even recoil from tampering with the truth4. In the twenties and thirties of this century a number of so-called “presentist” historians, foremost among whom were Beard and Becker5, agreed with Croce that historiography inevitably is and should be (the “is” and the “should be” very often go together in their discussions) determined by “present needs and interests”.

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