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The meaning of the "ground" is clear but I have problem with the phrase below:

In knowing the ground was not ground at all.

So, could you please what the meaning of the phrase is?

The full text is hear:

“I am Professor Steinberg,” he said. “What would you like to read?” I mumbled something about historiography. I had decided to study not history, but historians. I suppose my interest came from the sense of groundlessness I’d felt since learning about the Holocaust and the civil rights movement—since realizing that what a person knows about the past is limited, and will always be limited, to what they are told by others. I knew what it was to have a misconception corrected—a misconception of such magnitude that shifting it shifted the world. Now I needed to understand how the great gatekeepers of history had come to terms with their own ignorance and partiality. I thought if I could accept that what they had written was not absolute but was the result of a biased process of conversation and revision, maybe I could reconcile myself with the fact that the history most people agreed upon was not the history I had been taught. Dad could be wrong, and the great historians Carlyle and Macaulay and Trevelyan could be wrong, but from the ashes of their dispute I could construct a world to live in. In knowing the ground was not ground at all, I hoped I could stand on it.

Educated by Tara Westover

  • It's an analogy and a paradox. The biased writings of historians are not a firm thing to stand on, they are not "ground at all", that is, they are nothing at all like terra firma. That's the analogy. Not only was it not firm, it was as if it wasn't even ground, just something that was regarded by many as if it were ground. By acknowledging that the ground was not firm underfoot, not really even there, she hoped to be able to stand on it. That's the paradox. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 10 '18 at 9:46
  • @ Tᴚoɯɐuo So she could have said: "In knowing the ground, which was not ground at all, I hoped I could stand on it." couldn't she? – Peace Jun 10 '18 at 9:54
  • She could have said that, but it would have a different nuance. In your version she knows the ground itself. In her version, she knows something about it. Your version gives her firmer knowledge than she might wish to claim. She knows (that) the ground was not ground at all. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 10 '18 at 10:01
  • @ Tᴚoɯɐuo A thoughtful answer! Could you please extend your comment to an answer? – Peace Jun 10 '18 at 10:05
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It's an analogy and a paradox. The biased writings of historians are not a firm thing to stand on, they are not "ground at all", that is, they are nothing at all like terra firma. That's the analogy. Not only was it not firm, it was as if it wasn't even ground, just something that was regarded by many as if it were ground. By acknowledging that the ground was not firm underfoot, not really even there, she hoped to be able to stand on it. That's the paradox.

She knows (that) the ground was not really ground.

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    It's also a pun of sorts, I think. The first part of the sentence could poassibly be rephrased as, "In learning the foundation was not really the true foundation that I thought it was..." However, by using ground instead of foundation, Westover is able to continue with a nice play on words: "...I hoped I could stand on it [the ground]." – J.R. Jun 10 '18 at 10:32

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