Imagining the Past of the Present


WINDSOR Mark Richard

Year of publication 2022
Description Some objects we value because they afford a felt connection with people, events, or places connected with their past. Visiting Canterburycathedral, you encounter the place where, in 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by four knights of Henry II. Knowing that you arestanding in the very place where Becket’s blood was spilled gives the past event a sense of tangible reality. One feels ‘in touch’ with the past;history seems to ‘come alive’. In this paper, I propose an explanation for the phenomenology of such experiences in terms of an imaginative activitythat represents what an object is historically connected with as part of the object in the present. One imagines of the site of Becket’s murder Becketbeing murdered. According to my account, objects that evoke the presence of something connected with their past are representations in KendallWalton’s sense: they have the function of serving as props in games of make-believe. What makes these objects distinctive qua props is that theirhistorical properties both prompt and support an imaginative activity in which one imagines of an object its past in the present.
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