The Idea of History

By R. G. Collingwood; J. Van Der Dussen | Go to book overview

PRELIMINARY DISCUSSION
THE IDEA OF A PHILOSOPHY OF SOMETHING, AND, IN PARTICULAR, A PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY (1927)

WHEN we speak of the philosophy of something (e.g. of art, of religion, of history) we mean to designate a body of thoughts which arise in us when we think about that thing. These thoughts must be philosophical; that is, they must be universal and necessary. A fortuitous association of ideas--for instance, the association of framed canvasses with the thought of art--is not philosophy; no thoughts can claim to be the philosophy of a subject unless they arise universally and necessarily in the mind of everyone who thinks about that subject.

For this reason, we must exclude from the philosophy of a subject not only fortuitous associations, but thoughts of the peculiar kind which are called scientific, in the sense in which scientific thought is distinguished from philosophical. A scientific thought is universal only in the sense that it is universally applicable to a limited sphere; it is empirically universal, not absolutely universal; it applies to all the facts that make up the field of an inquiry, but not to all facts whatever, on the contrary, were it applicable to all facts, it would cease to be a scientific law and would become a philosophical; and this

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The source document can be found in the Bodleian Library Collingwood Papers, dep. 14.
1
After the title is written by Collingwood: 'added April 1927'. Collingwood wrote this essay while staying in Rome with his friend the Italian philosopher de Ruggiero. It was meant as an additional introduction to the Lectures on the Philosophy of History, written in 1926. A note subsequently added to the title-page reads: 'Written in Rome, by fits and starts, April 1927. I haven't read it since, but from my recollection of the frame or frames of mind in which it was composed I suspect it of being chaotic and practically valueless. Die, April 1928.'

Collingwood added the note while on vacation in the country-house Le Martouret, Die, France, during April 1928. It was there that he wrote his Outlines of a Philosophy of History (mentioned in An Autobiography, p. 107). Despite Collingwood's own negative assessment of this 'Preliminary Discussion' it is nevertheless valuable as an illustration of his thinking at that time on the nature of the philosophy of history.

-335-

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The Idea of History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Editor's Introduction ix
  • Contents li
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Greco-Roman Historiography 14
  • Part II the Influence of Christianity 46
  • Part III the Threshold of Scientific History 86
  • Part IV Scientific History 134
  • Part V Epilegomena 205
  • Preliminary Discussion the Idea of A Philosophy of Something, And, in Particular, A Philosophy of History (1927) 335
  • Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1926)1 359
  • Contents 360
  • Outlines of A Philosophy of History (1928) 426
  • Introductory Lecture 431
  • Contents 437
  • Iii. Relation 439
  • Index 497
  • More Oxford Paperbacks 511
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