Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Collingwood Bump

Yesterday a friend asked me how my reading and writing was going. He asked me if I was reading anything by Collingwood right now. He is certainly the person I feel most immersed in, so he was right to ask.

I'm not reading any Collingwood right now. I've been writing about him in AZI. Just finished writing about The Idea of History and its political implications. Which is problematic because I haven't yet red David Boucher's intro essay to The New Leviathan where he makes some claims about the relationship between re-enactment and TNL. So I don't feel super comfortable with my writing in that section, but it is a tentative statement and will have to do for now. Here is a snippet from it that gives you a sense of what I think of TIOH: "The political implications of historical thinking (re-enactment) thus become clear if we highlight these three ways it affects the mind. It forces people to come to terms with the limitations of their own thinking through collisions of thought, it gives people enriched minds through the diffusion of other minds into their own, and it gives us a powerful way to make comparisons, not only in large political situations, but in every day social situations. I will venture to say that both populations and politicians should to be willing to engage in these effects of re-enactment. If we want to bring about progress or change things we need to be open to the colliding with, diffusing, and comparing of minds. We need that sort of historical-self knowledge. ‘Revolutionaries ought to be historians’. What an interesting thing for Collingwood to say. "That is my summary of about five pages on his historical work. So I feel like I am working towards some strong thoughts. I suspect I'm heading in the same direction that Boucher is going in.

There is, however, something in The New Leviathan that I have failed to grasp so far. I am referring to Collingwood's claim that duty is the highest form of practical reason, and that historical thinking is its theoretical counterpart. Duty as a form of practical reasoning (in which you do what is good) is to be contrasted with utility (in which you do what is useful), and right (in which you do something because of certain customs). And how interesting that duty as practical reason corresponds with history as a a form of theoretical reason. So, clearly, if there is a relationship between Collingwood's historical work and his political-moral work, I should look for it in this relationship between duty, history, and good.

Strange stuff. When I read The New Leviathan I really failed to grasp this. I definitely read the whole thing, including the chapters on right, utility, and duty. But really missed this. Luckily Boucher was there to help me out. Even though I haven't finished his intro.

The bump, then, is this relationship between duty and historical thinking. If I want to write on The New Leviathan I need to understand this.

It appears as though I cannot continue my work on Art, Zen, Insurrection until I do so.

By the way, I think the title Art, Zen, Insurrection is stupid and have decided that the project needs to be renamed. It still, however, captures a lot about the contents of the work: The idea of defining a historical-philosophical-ethical attitude that is analogous to both aesthetics and zen, and is also driven by an emphasis on political thinking. In particular, political-military pedagogy.

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