Tuesday, November 1, 2011


When I think about R.G. Collingwood I don't know where to begin.

I learned about him because of his contributions to the philosophy of history. The Idea Of History is probably what he is most well known for. No doubt about it, Collingwood was deeply committed to the philosophy of history, and believed that historical study was the only way humans could ever understand themselves. Without self knowledge, Collingwood believed, there was no hope for human beings to rationally create their own historical existence. In other words, you won't make the best choices unless you know yourself, where you come from, your history.

But there is so much more happening in Collingwood's thinking than his historical study. My professor once told me that Collingwood thought in broad strokes. Because when I read Collingwood philosophical categorization seems highly inappropriate. I don't know how to generalize Collingwood's work yet. Interesting that I say yet. I basically have ambition of breaking into his mind. Figuring out what the heck was up with this man that died before he was ever able to really tell me what he was up to. This man who died before he finished the book that, for 25 years, thought would be his 'chief work'.

How interesting to try and grapple with an intense mind that died before it told all it wanted to tell. How to 'reenact' that mind. How to simulate those thoughts.

I often think about Zizek's discussion of the virtual of an author in In Defense Of Lost Causes. He talks about how to really stay true to an author's thought, you have to betray that author. By which he means that at the core of any writing, there are always thoughts and implications beyond what the text is able to communicate. If you want to really be with an author in his thinking, engage fully with his questions, then you need to go beyond that author. But I'm confusing myself pretty badly with those three lines. The virtual, a Deluzian concept I am not familiar enough with.

Collingwood makes me think about the virtual of an author. The mind at the core of the writing. Because if one is to really understand Collingwood one has to understand the mind behind the text. Obviously. Studying the texts isn't enough. I need a deeper understanding of Collingwood than that.

Anyways, I just wanted to talk about Collingwood a little.

How much he confuses me.

He developed his own philosophies of mind, language, history, causation, law and politics, so much stuff.


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