History As Re-enactment: R. G. Collingwood's Idea of History by William H. Dray

By William H. Dray

This booklet explains and defends a significant rules within the idea of heritage recommend via R. G. Collingwood, probably the key thinker of heritage within the twentieth century. Professor Dray analyses significantly the belief of re-enactment, explores the boundaries of its applicability, and determines its courting to different key Collingwoodian principles, equivalent to the position of mind's eye in old pondering, and the indispensability of some extent of view.

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Additional resources for History As Re-enactment: R. G. Collingwood's Idea of History (Clarendon Paperbacks)

Sample text

These, he rightly observes, are all objective facts. The logic of Galileo's position, he goes on to say, called for his rejection of Kepler's advances-presumably to avoid intellectual contamination. But what Popper has described looks exactly like what Collingwood would call a reconstruction of agents' thoughts. For one of the things which makes the cited facts explanatory is surely their being what Galileo believed. The 'initial conditions' which Collingwood wishes to exclude from historical explanation are not such 'objective facts' as that the agent believed certain things about his situation, but rather that the situation was a certain way whether he believed it or not.

I shall also contrast the interpretation of re-enactment itself which I have outlined here with two somewhat different interpretations which have enjoyed some support. Before doing this, however, it may be useful to take a brief look at the quite different way in which Collingwood conceived specifically historical understanding before he arrived at his view of it as re-enactive, a way which, although incompatible with the latter, makes an occasional appearance in his writings long after the 'illumination' of Martouret.

A case in point is a remark which he makes about the importance of understanding Marx's philosophy as an attempt to solve a practical rather than a theoretical problem. What Marx wrote, he observes, 'would necessarily ... appear nonsensical except to a person who, I will not say shared his desire to make the world better by means of a philosophy, but at least regarded that desire as a reasonable one' (A 152). The qualification which he adds here betrays at least a qualm about saying that the historian must actually agree with the purposes and principles of the agent if he is to understand his action.

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