History as a Science: The Philosophy of R.G. Collingwood by Jan van der Dussen

By Jan van der Dussen

1. 1. COLLINGWOOD'S RECEPTION Collingwood's scholarly attractiveness is a sophisticated and variegated affair. For one has not just to make a' contrast among his popularity in the course of his lifestyles and after his untimely dying in 1943, but in addition among his acceptance as a thinker and as an archaeologist and historian. Collingwood himself thought of philosophy as his basic profession and his paintings in archaeology and historical past as that of an beginner. This paintings, besides the fact that, reached the top criteria and his contributions to archaeology and background have continuously been preferred hence. even though Collingwood's popularity because the major specialist on Roman Britain within the interval among the 2 wars is still unchallenged, smooth advancements during this box have unavoidably outmoded his contributions and made them basically voices from a earlier interval. Philosophy used to be the opposite 1/2 Collingwood's scholarly existence. In his personal pondering there has been constantly an in depth courting among philosophy and archaeological and histor ical perform. His interpreters haven't constantly famous this connection. i've got met archaeologists who have been shocked to listen to that Collingwood was once a thinker to boot, who both didn't understand that he were a working towards and philosophers archaeologist and historian, or concept it not more than a personal pastime. Collingwood's popularity as a thinker used to be very various from the single he won in archaeology and historical past. For within the philosophical weather at Oxford among the wars he was once continuously an remoted determine.

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We shall see later in this study that from the late twenties his concept of history became explicitly idealistic, turning from an - at least impliCitly - realistic position. While holding this latter view on history, he had however already for some years been an avowed antirealist. Collingwood's position, or rather his development, is a complicated affair. He cannot be classified as belonging to any specific movement, either Idealism or Realism. This does not mean that there are no idealistic or realistic aspects to be discerned in his thought.

NAPhH, respectively 46,47,48). As in Speculum Mentis the conclusion that "[f] act, in its reality, is unknowable" (NAPhH,55), is also put forward. We have seen, however, that there is one fundamental difference. According to ''The Nature and Aims of a Philosophy of History" the historian is implicitly conscious of this scepticism inherent in historical knowledge, but is not deterred by it from aiming at such knowledge" 3 • Philosophy makes this explicit at a theoretical level: ''T he wor ld of fact, which for history is an external presupposition of thought, becomes for philosophy a world of perspectives each having at its centre an historical consciousness; a wor ld of wor Ids of thought each relative to its thinker" (NAPhH,56).

The compar ison of the study of history with a game is considered by Collingwood to be a real description of what this study is like. ''The 50called rules of the game", he says, "are really the definition of what historical thinking is; the winner of the game is the historian proper the person who thinks histor icall y, whose thought fulfils the ideal of historical truth. For historical thinking means nothing else than interpreting all the available evidence with the maximum degree of critical skill" (LHK,98-99).

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