The Idea of History

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A central motif of R. Collingwood's philosophy of history is the idea that historical understanding requires a re-enactment of past experience. However, there have been sharp disagreements about the acceptability of this idea, and even its meaning. This book aims to advance the critical discussion in three ways: by analysing the idea itself further, concentrating especially on the contrast which Collingwood drew between it and scientific understanding; by exploring the limits of its applicability to what historians ordinarily consider their proper subject-matter; and by clarifying the relat This book aims to advance the critical discussion in three ways: by analysing the idea itself further, concentrating especially on the contrast which Collingwood drew between it and scientific understanding; by exploring the limits of its applicability to what historians ordinarily consider their proper subject-matter; and by clarifying the relationship between it and some other key Collingwoodian ideas, such as the place of imagination in historical inquiry, the sense in which history deals with the individual, the essential perspectivity of historical judgement, and the importance of narrative and periodisation in historical thinking.

This book defends Collingwood against a good deal of recent criticism, while pointing to ways in which his position requires revision or development. This book draws upon a wide range of Collingwood's published writings, and makes considerable use of his unpublished manuscripts. Keywords: R. Collingwood , historical understanding , past experience , scientific understanding , place of imagination , historical inquiry , the individual , narrative , periodisation.

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  1. The pursuit of happiness;
  2. The Idea of History and the History of Ideas.
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  4. The idea of history as progress is underpinned by a hidden theology.

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Preview — The Idea of History by R. The Idea of History by R. Collingwood ,. Jan van der Dussen Editor. The Idea of History is the best-known work of the great Oxford philosopher, historian, and archaeologist R. It was originally published posthumously in , having been mainly reconstructed from Collingwood's manuscripts, many of which are now lost. This important work examines how the idea of history has evolved from the time of Herodotus to the twentieth The Idea of History is the best-known work of the great Oxford philosopher, historian, and archaeologist R.


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  • On the Concept of History.
  • This important work examines how the idea of history has evolved from the time of Herodotus to the twentieth century, and offers Collingwood's own view of what history is. For this revised edition, Collingwood's most important lectures on the philosophy of history are published here for the first time. These texts have been prepared by Jan van der Dussen from manuscripts that have only recently become available.

    The lectures contain Collingwood's first comprehensive statement of his philosophy of history; they are therefore essential for a full understanding of his thought, and in particular for a correct interpretation of The Idea of History itself. Van der Dussen contributes a substantial introduction in which he explains the background to this new edition and surveys the scholarship of the last fifty years.

    Get A Copy. Paperback , Revised Edition , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Idea of History , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details.

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    Philosophy of History

    More filters. Sort order. Mar 07, Ahmad Abdul Rahim rated it it was amazing Shelves: intelek , sejarah , falsafah , historiografi , bahasa. This is a highly specialized topic written for a book.

    The Idea of History by R.G. Collingwood

    Readers who are not historians will find themselves completely at the mercy of the author: his choice of topics, his analysis on other historians approach, his refutations and arguments. However I believe Collingwood intended this book for the lay audiences. His main points were repeatedly reiterated throughout the book. And he used common and shared experiences to drive his ideas home; that history is a different kind of science than what This is a highly specialized topic written for a book.

    And he used common and shared experiences to drive his ideas home; that history is a different kind of science than what's being oftenly accepted, but its a science nevertheless; and historical thought is achieved by reenacting the historical events in one's own mind and reliven it.

    I view the Idea of History as a book that describes whats going on inside a historian's mind: his hopes and fears, his assertions and contentions, and the pursuit of objectivity within an intrinsically subjective-minded kind of inquiry. Feb 12, Varad rated it it was amazing. A book anyone who is - or pretends to be - a historian must read. That is not to say it will be easy for many historians to read, or that they will agree with its conclusions. It is a difficult work, a work of genuine philosophy; and Collingwood's conception of history seems to contradict much of what historians think about their craft and their subject.

    The first part of the book is taken up with Collingwood's account of the development of history as an entity in its own right, that is one with A book anyone who is - or pretends to be - a historian must read. The first part of the book is taken up with Collingwood's account of the development of history as an entity in its own right, that is one with a defined subject and object.

    For Collingwood this means history's evolution from various annalistic, political, and theological approaches, and in modern times its escape from the grip of scientism and naturalism. In other words, his concern is with history's maturation as philosophically viable, independent, and complete. History, that is, for and by its own sake.

    The real substance of the book is Collingwood's analysis of history from this philosophical viewpoint. The influence of idealism is apparent Collingwood was one of the British idealists , and the philosophy itself is too rich and complicated for exegesis here. Two main ideas underpin the edifice.

    The first is the notion that the past has no independent existence, having ceased to be the moment it passed into whatever temporal oblivion things that have occurred pass into. It need not be pointed out that the philosophy of time is itself hugely controversial, but Collingwood only introduces that to the extent it impinges on his enterprise, and no more.

    The past can only be known in the present, because all that is known of it is what of it that has persisted into the present. We can know of it only what is left. Because of this Collingwood argues that history ends in the present; the historian's task is to understand how it came to be, but can say nothing about the future because it no more exists than the past.

    It is how the historian goes about doing all this that is surely the most controversial aspect of his philosophy of history.

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    Because the past itself does not exist, and all that is known of the past is based on the evidence of it that exists in the present, Collingwood asserts that all history is a reconstruction of the past, an imaginative reconstruction which takes place in the historian's mind. And what the historian reconstructs is not events or actions, for those are lost, but the thought that went into those events or actions.

    For Collingwood, "All history is the history of thought" The only way to know the thought of the past is to recreate it in one's own mind; that is history. Hence Collingwood's lapidary assertion, a stone cast into the very foundations of history itself: "The history of thought, and therefore all history, is the re-enactment of past thought in the historian's own mind" ibid. A stunning claim, and a controversial one. It raises all sorts of issues, such as what constitutes a thought, what an event is, whether humans in the present can re-think the thoughts of humans in earlier centuries if their thought processes are incommensurate which introduces the vexed question of the unity and uniformity of human nature , and so forth.

    One can challenge Collingwood's philosophy of history both on its premises and its conclusions. But from his premises his conclusions are entailed logically. For they all flow from the basic premise upon which the entire structure is erected: history is by necessity philosophical for it is a product of the human mind.

    It is created by humans thinking, by our mental processes. To use one's mind, for Collingwood, is to act philosophically. History and philosophy are in this respect, for him, identical. This is implied throughout the main text, but is most forcefully established in the essays and lecture notes which were added to the edition. Here Collingwood makes clear, in powerfully protreptic fashion, his conviction that history without philosophy is a nullity.

    From this arise profound metaphysical, epistemological, and moral consequences. Metaphysical, for history is an attempt to unite in the concrete reality of the present the wholly ideal existences of the past and the future. It is wholly ideal" The present itself is is only a momentary phenomenon, the point at which the two unrealities meet. Epistemological consequences stem from the metaphysical, for the unreality of the past constrains our ability to know it. What we are really trying to know, of course, is the present. The past is "necessary" while the future is "possible. It is probably the most controversial proposition in all history the discipline, not the subject , whether we study the past for its own sake or our own, but Collingwood eminently, sensibly, chooses the only way he must: "The purpose of history is to enable us to know and therefore to act relatively to the present" All history leads up to the present; we seek to comprehend it by "reconstructing its determining conditions" And comprehend it we must, for it is innate in our humanity.

    It is part of what makes it human. And this brings us to the moral consequences of Collingwood's conception of history.

    The Idea of History

    That is why history is, and must be, philosophical: it emanates from our minds. We apprehend the world through thought, and no thought is more crucial than that by which we reconstruct the making of the world we inhabit, that is, the present.

    The Idea of History

    Every past that was once a present was itself reconstructed in that way. So it is that Collingwood can declare that all history is the re-enactment of past thought. Philosophy and history are both concerned with thought.