Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Can't Write Like That Anymore

I used to just puke out 10-15 page essays. I was so content to just explore a book or two. Use some quotations. Argue some basic points. Just flip around in a pleasant abstract world.

But it takes so much more for me to do really serious writing now. I have to have a real problem to work on. I need to have a bunch of evidence pushing me in a similar direction.

Right now I'm reading a lot of Collingwood. I'm working on connecting his moral and political philosophy to Clausewitz and John Gray.

Slow going.

I'm moving through The Principles of History and the essays and notes published with that volume.

It is soooooo obvious that Collingwood's morality hinges on a proper conception of history and historical education. There is a total vision in Collingwood that was never actualized. It would benefit so much from a well reasoned comparison to Clausewitz and Gray.

Let me share a lengthy quotation for you. This is found in Collingwood's notes on the philosophy of history. It comes from his notes on 'Scheme for a Book: "The Principles of History"'. In this note Collingwood lays out tentative outline for the book and its main points. I'll pick up about halfway through after Collingwood declares that history must be the human sciences. That is, only history can provide human's with self-knowledge: "The main idea here is that history is the negation of the traditional distinction between theory and practice. That distinction depends on taking, as our typical case of knowledge, the contemplation of nature, where the object is presupposed. In history the object is enacted and is therefore not an object at all. If this is worked out carefully, then should follow without difficulty a characterization of an historical morality and an historical civilization, contrasting with our 'scientific' one. Where 'science' = of or belonging to natural science. A scientific morality will start from the idea of human nature as a thing to be conquered or obeyed: a[n] historical one will deny that there is such a thing, and will resolve what we are into what we do. A scientific society will turn on the idea of mastering people (by money or war or the like) or alternatively serving them (philanthropy). A[n] historical society will turn on the idea of understanding them" (The Principles of History, 246).

A long quotation that has a ton going on it.

Collingwood didn't get anywhere near addressing all this stuff. The idea of a historical society, one that seeks to understand people seems revolutionary.

I'm trying to work this stuff out. Historical morality. Historical civilization. Historical education.


I don't know what to do.

But I am moving on this shit. Trying to get it clear. Trying to write what Collingwood would have written.

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