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

By William H. Dray

This publication explains and defends a vital principles within the conception of heritage recommend through R. G. Collingwood, maybe the most important thinker of historical past within the twentieth century. Professor Dray analyses seriously the belief of re-enactment, explores the boundaries of its applicability, and determines its dating to different key Collingwoodian principles, similar to the function of mind's eye in ancient considering, and the indispensability of some degree of view.

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

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29 Still a shorter way with Collingwood's paradox would be to point out that, as stated, it really rests upon an equivocation. If we are told that, when the historian knows what happened, he already knows why it happened, we naturally assume that the same thing is being referred to by 'what' and 'it'. In fact, the assertion only makes sense if 'it' refers to the action as characterized before the explanation begins, and 'what' to the action as re-characterized when, as is always possible, the thought which is regarded as explanatory is incorporated into a re-description of it.

Mis-statements of Re-enactment I have attributed to Collingwood the position that understanding an action by reference to the practical argument which it expresses requires the argument's having been appraised and found valid. If the historian fails to re-think it critically, or if the argument itself breaks down under criticism, then understanding fails. But if this is correct, Collingwood states both claims misleadingly from time to time. With a view to clarifying what is defensible in his doctrine further, let me look briefly at some examples of what seem to me such mis-statements.

If the historian fails to re-think it critically, or if the argument itself breaks down under criticism, then understanding fails. But if this is correct, Collingwood states both claims misleadingly from time to time. With a view to clarifying what is defensible in his doctrine further, let me look briefly at some examples of what seem to me such mis-statements. Collingwood surely mis-states the claim that re-thinking must be critical when he says, in a part of the British Academy Lecture which was not quoted in ยง 2, that the historian, since he re-enacts past thought 'in the context of his own knowledge', therefore 'criticizes it, forms his own judgement of its value, corrects whatever errors he can discern in it' (IH 215).

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