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About the Author
- Item Weight : 8.3 ounces
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0198246943
- ISBN-13 : 978-0198246947
- Dimensions : 8.18 x 4.78 x 0.57 inches
- Publisher : Oxford University Press (December 9, 1982)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I will not enter here in a synopsis of the debate in the philosophy of history that has become increasingly polarized--and confused--as the twentieth century has drawn to a close; but I will say that anyone interested in the topic must read this book.
If coupled with A.J.Ayer's "Language, Truth and Logic" on positivism (one meaning of which is that value judgements are irrational) one has an introduction to historicism and positivism in the English tongue in the 20th century.
Ayer and Collingwood wrote these books and taught in the pre-war Oxford of the 1930's. One view of England at this time can be seen in Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited", both the book and the excellent mini-series with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.
He criticizes the Logical Positivists: "I think that this school, with all its ingenuity and pertinacity, is only building card-houses out of a pack of lies." (Pg. 52) After his experiences with weekly meetings of the Oxford Philosophical Society, he concluded, "I must do my own work by myself, and not expect my colleagues in the philosophical profession to give me any help." (Pg. 54-55)
He explains, "My life's work hitherto... has been in the main an attempt to bring about a rapprochment between philosophy and history." (Pg. 77) He adds, "The chief business of twentieth-century philosophy is to reckon with twentieth-century history." (Pg. 79) He recalls, "By about 1920 this was my first principle of a philosophy of history: that the past which an historian studies is not a dead past, but a past which in some sense is still living in the present." (Pg. 97)
Later, he observes, "I expressed this new conception of history in the phrase, 'all history is the history of thought.'... And there is nothing else except thought that can be the object of historical knowledge." (Pg. 110) He adds, "This gave me a second proposition: 'historical knowledge is the re-enactment in the historian's mind of the thought whose history he is studying.'" (Pg. 112) He elaborates, "If what the historian knows is past thoughts, and if he knows them by re-thinking them himself, it follows that the knowledge he achieves by historical inquiry is not knowledge of his situation... it is a knowledge of his situation which is at the same time knowledge of himself. In re-thinking what somebody else thought, he thinks it himself... He must be, in fact, a microcosm of all the history he can know. Thus his own self-knowledge is at the same time his knowledge of the world of human affairs... The answer was now clear and certain. The science of human affairs was history." (Pg. 114-115)
Collingwood's book is of interest to philosophers, of course, but of particular interest to students of the philosophy of history.