Philology
Afterword

The more functional a story is, in the self-consciousness of a modern tribe or state, the more likely it is that the story has been shaped or created to fulfil that function. We have earlier argued that philology precedes history, but here is the converse. Critical examination of the historical fabric itself is necessary before we can locate new elements in relation to that fabric. The tasks of the philologist and the historian may be contrasted, and we began our discussion of philology by contrasting them. But in practice, the skills of the one are constantly needed in the work of the other. Ultimately, and also in daily practice, they form a common enterprise.

They join hands also at the end, where the system of interrelated texts which result from the labors of philology must be given a final evaluation to see if the texts, when considered as sources for history, together yield a history that is humanly plausible, a history which does not require the assumption of unnatural developmental sequences. The historian as such must participate in that final evaluation, if the philological result is to be competently judged. The guiding of the enterprise thus continually passes back and forth.

That is to say, history and philology are essentially one.

Fu Sz-nyen

The point, however, is little appreciated at the present time. And so we end with a tribute to Fu Sz-nyen (1896-1950), who saw it with great clarity. He returned to China in 1926 from study in England and Germany with a vision of history and philology as mutually supporting. He then labored to create, within the nascent Academia Sinica as it was then taking shape, a special section, the Institute of History and Philology, where these related arts would be developed and practiced in continual contact with each other. That Institute was finally founded in 1929. It survives in transplanted form at Academia Sinica Taiwan, and an important scholarly journal continues to appear under its aegis.

We commend the concept behind this model to those in any county who may be interested in putting historical scholarship back together again.

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23 Oct 2013. Contact The Project / Exit to Home Page