Angel Rivière Autonoma University of Madrid
From some philosophical perspectives, history is a construction deeply rooted in the human cognitive system. In the philosophy of José Ortega y Gasset, for example, the activity of making stories is an act almost as natural and as necessary as breathing, in that it constitutes a basic function of what he calls "vital reason." This is not a secondary function, still less a by-product of Reason with a capital 'R," that is, paradigmatic reason as conceived by the Rationalists, as a universal instrument, that conceives of objects independently of time and perspective. On the contrary, historical reason, inevitably subject to conditions of time and perspective, is the most primary reason of people, which they employ to do something inevitable: interpret their own lives as they unfold. Thus, to conceive of life in terms of stories is to perform a cognitive activity so fundamental that, without it, human life would be merely a series of events, not just a biography with meaning.
History with a capital "H" cannot, of course, be reduced to that other much more fundamental, although less eminent and complex activity, of constructing one's own and others' lives as history with a small "h" -- as stories (this chapter was written in Spanish and in that language, history and story are expressed by the same word, historia). However, as Wertsch notes in this volume, the two activities are closely related. The former can be considered, in part, a scientific elaboration of so natural a function as storytelling (see also White, 1981, 1987). Thus, although history is a construct of a superior order, it is based on lower or more basic activities in human cognitive functioning. It could be expected, then, that the cognitive processes related to history would be one of those principal areas of
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Publication information: Book title: Cognitive and Instructional Processes in History and the Social Sciences. Contributors: Mario Carretero - Editor, James F. Voss - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 431.