The Principles of History: And Other Writings in Philosophy of History

The Principles of History: And Other Writings in Philosophy of History

The Principles of History: And Other Writings in Philosophy of History

The Principles of History: And Other Writings in Philosophy of History

Synopsis

Published here for the first time is much of a final and long-anticipated work on philosophy of history by the great Oxford philosopher and historian R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943). The original text of this uncompleted work has only recently been discovered. It is accompanied by further,shorter writings by Collingwood on historical knowledge and inquiry, selected from previously unpublished manuscripts held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. All these writings, besides containing entirely new ideas, discuss further many of the issues which Collingwood famously raised in The Idea ofHistory and in his Autobiography. The volume includes also two conclusions written by Collingwood for lectures which were eventually revised and published as The Idea of Nature, but which have relevance also to his philosophy of history. A lengthy editorial introduction sets these writings in their context, and discusses philosophical questions to which they give rise. The editors also consider why Collingwood left The Principles of History unfinished at his death, and what significance should be attached to the fact that itcontains no reference to the idea of historical understanding as re-enactment. This volume will be a landmark publication not just in Collingwood studies but in philosophy of history generally.

Excerpt

R. G. Collingwood made signal contributions to several branches of philosophy, but he is best known for his work in philosophy of history. Many would regard him, indeed, not only as a theorist of the first rank in this field, but as the only English-speaking philosopher of whom that could be said: the thinker whose ideas have effectively set the agenda for those working in it ever since his untimely death in 1943. It is remarkable that he gained this commanding position principally through a posthumous work, The Idea of History, which was put together by his literary executor, Sir Malcolm Knox, largely out of lecture notes and manuscripts, although this was supplemented by his own account of the development of his view of history in his Autobiography, published in 1939. Besides the latter work, and excluding Speculum Mentis, a monograph of 1924 which antedated his interest in history as a form of inquiry, there were, during his lifetime, just a few scattered essays on philosophy of history which appeared in the 1920s but were little noticed at the time, an 'interim report' on the progress of his thought on history in 1930 entitled The Philosophy of History which was published as a leaflet by the English Historical Association, and two public lectures: 'The Historical Imagination', an inaugural lecture which Collingwood delivered to the University of Oxford in 1935 on the occasion of his election to the Waynflete Chair of Metaphysics, and 'Human Nature and Human History', an address which he gave to the British Academy in 1936. Knox included both of these in the Epilegomena to The Idea of History (IH, 205–49).

Central to Collingwood's thought on history was the idea that historical inquiry is or ought to be 'autonomous', and, more

The Times Literary Supplement listed IH among the one hundred most
influential books since the Second World War (6 Oct. 1995, 39). For
Collingwood's contributions to philosophy of mind, art, nature, religion, poli
tics, and philosophy itself, see e.g. PA, IN, RP, NL, EPM, EM.

These were collected by William Debbins and republished in 1965 as
EPH.

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