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Cq,llingwood's Theory of the Relation Between Philosophy and History: A New Interpretation LIONEL RUBINOFF INTRODUCTION EVERSINCEHIS UNTIMELYDEATHIN 1942, Collingwood's thought has been the subject of much controversy and discussion. With very few exceptions, however, the majority of Collingwood's critics, both sympathetic and hostile, have agreed that his thought is riddled with radical discontinuities. According to T. M. Knox, e.g., Collingwood's writings may be divided into three groups: an early period of juvenilia consisting of Religion and Philosophy (1916) and Speculum Mentis (1924) ; a second more mature period which includes An Essay on Philosophical Method (1933) (which Knox regards as Collingwood's greatest philosophical achievement), The Idea o] Nature (1934), and much of The Idea o] History (1936); and a third period comprising the Autobiography (1939), An Essay on Metaphysics (1940), and The New Leviathan (1942). The Principles o] Art (1938) is akin in part to the second group, in part to the third. Knox argues that the works belonging to the third group are seriously affected by Collingwood's conversion (sometime between 1936 and 1939) to radical historicism, the essence of which is summed up, according to Knox, in Collingwood's own declaration (cited from an unpublished manuscript written in 1939) that "philosophy as a separate discipline is liquidated by being converted into history." 1 A slightly different version of what I have previously called "the radical conversion hypothesis" is given by Alan Donagan.e Donagan accepts Knox's "demonstration that between 1936 and 1938 Collingwood radically changed his mind about the relation of philosophy to history," but he denies that The New LeviaThe views expressed here are elaborated in greater detail in my forthcoming book Coilingwood and the Re]orm o] Metaphysics: A Sludy in the Philosophy o] Mind, to be published early in 1969by University of Toronto Press. 1"Preface," in Knox's edition of The Idea o] History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946), p. x; cf. Knox's "Notes on Collingwood's Philosophical Work," Proceedings o] the British Academy, XXIX (1943). The following of Collingwood's works are cited throughout this paper according to the following abbreviations: Religion and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1916) -= RP; Speculum Mentis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924) -=SM; "Religion, Science and Philosophy," Truth and Freedom, II (1926) ---= RSP ; An Essay on Philosophical Method (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933) ----EPM. References in my text to these works are to the editions cited; the sources for citations made from other works will be found in the appropriate footnotes. ~See my "Collingwood and the Radical Conversion Hypothesisz" Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, V, 1 (1966), 71-83, and Donagan's The Later Phdosophy o] CoUingwood (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1962). [363] 364 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY than and The Principles o] Art are affected by the historicism which underlies An Essay on Metaphysics and the Autobiography. On the contrary, according to Donagan, in The New Leviathan and The Principles o] Art, Collingwood changed his mind once again, this time moving beyond both idealism and historicism toward a philosophy of mind and language which places him in the main stream of British philosophy associated with the name of Wittgenstein. a Whether or not other Collingwood scholars are willing to accept Donagan's interpretation of The New Leviathan and The Principles o] Art, most are prepared , at least, to accept some version of the radical conversion hypothesis. F. H. Heinemann gives a typical verdict when he writes that Collingwood "made philosophy dependent on history." Heinemann notes that according to Collingwood , "Metaphysics is an historical science" and "Cosmology is a superhistory ." Such statements, he complains, "reveal the degree to which philosophy has become unilaterally dependent on history." 4 Even sympathetic critics such as E. E. Harris and Nathan Rotenstreich have come to regard An Essay on Metaphysics as a radical departure from the achievements of An Essay on Philosophical Method. Harris argues that An Essay on Metaphysics "obfuscates the philosophical insights of the earlier period." He then goes on to accuse Collingwood of philosophical amnesia, declaring that he has not "so much rejected as forgotten what he had written in earlier works." 5 Rotenstreich, on the other hand, has a somewhat more elaborate explanation for Collingwood's conversion. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 363-380
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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