Author Topic: Collingwood's Idea of History & Speculum Mentis  (Read 45905 times)

Online Laura

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Collingwood's Idea of History & Speculum Mentis
« on: August 12, 2017, 10:19:07 PM »

The title is "The Idea of History" and it's by R. G. Collingwood.  It is essentially about "the philosophy of history", but it is so much more than that.  In order to formulate and present his "idea of history", Collingwood has to examine quite breath-takingly, the processes of the MIND and how thought actually works and so forth.  There are startling passages where he is obviously describing what Gurdjieff called "self-remembering" (not a surprise in a book about history) and the clarity it gives to the topic is really amazing.

The first half of the book is a history of the idea of history and this is important too because it shows how history is pretty much the story of the development of mind and thinking. It is needed background, every step of the way, to finally get to the big exposition in the second half of the book. 

Collingwood writes clearly and simply though he does sprinkle in some short quotes in Greek here and there.  Not much and can be skimmed over. He uses very simple examples and analogies even including Agatha Christie stories and characters. Some of his arguments certainly sail pretty close to the wind of esoterica.

I would say that this is one of the most important books I've read in quite awhile.  Definitely a must get and read!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._G._Collingwood  ... where there is a rather weak-sauce description of his ideas:

Quote
Collingwood is widely noted for The Idea of History (1946), a work collated from various sources soon after his death by his pupil T. M. Knox. It came to be a major inspiration for philosophy of history in the English-speaking world and is extensively cited, leading commentator Louis Mink to ironically remark that Collingwood is coming to be "the best known neglected thinker of our time".[6]

Collingwood held that history could not be studied in the same way as natural science because the internal thought processes of historical persons could not be perceived with the physical senses, and past historical events could not be directly observed. He suggested that a historian must "reconstruct" history by using "historical imagination" to "re-enact" the thought processes of historical persons based on information and evidence from historical sources.

Collingwood pointed out a fundamental difference between knowing things in the present (or in the natural sciences) and knowing history. To come to know things in the present or about things in the natural sciences, “real” things can be observed, as they are in existence or that have substance right now.

The problem with coming to know things about history is that while past human actions actually or really happened, they took place in the past. The actions, then, have no real existence or substance at the point in time that the historian is studying them. Based on the understanding that the events and actions that historians study have already happened, they are finished and so cannot actually be observed. Collingwood maintained that historians must use their imaginations to reconstruct and understand the past. Because human events that have already taken place cannot be observed, he argued that they must be imagined.

« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 12:11:13 PM by Laura »
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Agamemnon, Aeschylus

Offline Gandalf

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Every time you say "yes" to someone who doesn't deserve it, and go against Yourself and what you value the most, you kill a small part of your essence. LKJ

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Online Ant22

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2017, 10:44:22 PM »
I just bought the kindle edition so I can start reading it straight away. Apparently the kindle version is the 1946 edition and there are later ones available in print but I'm sure it will be useful anyway.

Thank you for the recommendation Laura, I'm looking forward to reading the book!  :thup:
"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."

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Offline Laurelayn

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2017, 10:49:50 PM »
Cool, I have been looking for something different to read. The kindle version was only $.99 for me.  :cool:  That is less than books I looked at at garage sales today.
Thank you Laura.
The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.
Allan Bloom; The Closing of the American Mind

Online Laura

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2017, 11:01:05 PM »
Just found something interesting.  In the Wikipedia article, it mentions that Arthur Ransome was a close family friend of the Collingwoods. You can read about Ransome here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Ransome

There's a "Russian connection" at the time when Gurdjieff was there though it may mean nothing.  Still, Collingwood's descriptions of certain features of the mind and how he conceives it to operate (which seem brilliant and logical to me), have a strange resonance with Gurdjieff's "self remembering."
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Agamemnon, Aeschylus

Offline United Gnosis

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2017, 03:58:10 AM »
Thanks, it sounds absolutely great! It seems like he had an integral perspective not quite unlike that of Eliade, Campbell, Jung or maybe even Korzybsky? I'm still looking forward to reading K.'s Science and Sanity, but now I'm adding Collingwood's to the mix :) Thank you for sharing, it gives insight into where your process is taking you, and represents much Work to get there!
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Offline Foxx

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2017, 05:33:04 AM »
Just picked up a copy--sounds like a really interesting read.  Thanks Laura!

Offline Aragorn

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2017, 07:55:01 AM »
Sounds interesting! I just bought the Kindle version.

There's a later edition (1994), in paperback, that apparently includes transcripts of his lectures. Still, I'd rather start with the 1946-version, since there's always a risk that later "revised" versions are distorted in some ways.

The Idea of History Revised Edition (1994):

Quote
The Idea of History is the best-known work of the great Oxford philosopher, historian, and archaeologist R.G. Collingwood. It was originally published posthumously in 1946, having been mainly reconstructed from Collingwood's manuscripts, many of which are now lost. This important work examines how the idea of history has evolved from the time of Herodotus to the twentieth century, and offers Collingwood's own view of what history is. For this revised edition, Collingwood's most important lectures on the philosophy of history are published here for the first time. These texts have been prepared by Jan van der Dussen from manuscripts that have only recently become available. The lectures contain Collingwood's first comprehensive statement of his philosophy of history; they are therefore essential for a full understanding of his thought, and in particular for a correct interpretation of The Idea of History itself. Van der Dussen contributes a substantial introduction in which he explains the background to this new edition and surveys the scholarship of the last fifty years.
"We will do almost anything to conceal from ourselves the sad fact that we are mere gnats buzzing around a cosmic dung heap." -John Keel, The Eighth Tower-

Offline thorbiorn

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2017, 08:57:52 AM »
Thank you for the tip, it looks very interesting. On Amazon it is often bought with the book by Marc Bloch: The Historian's Craft, a small book many of us read a few years ago.

There was a translation in Russian when I used Yandex and typed the English title.
In Russian is called: "Р. Дж. Коллингвуд Идея истории. Автобиография"
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 09:04:24 AM by thorbiorn »
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Offline scotseeker

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2017, 01:38:40 PM »
Thank you Laura, just downloaded on my Kindle, a steal for 99 cents!
“Awakening is possible only for those who seek it and want it, for those who are ready to struggle with themselves and work on themselves for a very long time and very persistently in order to attain it.”
― G.I. Gurdjieff

Offline Lindenlea

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2017, 02:33:34 PM »
Thank you Laura, just downloaded on my Kindle, a steal for 99 cents!

Me too, and 1984+Animal Farm for the same price.  Thanks Laura for this book and the rest I've bought on Kindle Australia tonight.   

Offline maiko

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2017, 06:11:53 PM »
Thank you for sharing this. It sounds realls interesting. And I like what you said about his style of writing :read:

Online Laura

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2017, 06:36:20 PM »
Thank you for sharing this. It sounds realls interesting. And I like what you said about his style of writing :read:

You need to be awake when you read this one, and may have to re-read a paragraph now and then to follow the close arguments, but none of it is too complex or fancy to finally grasp.
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Agamemnon, Aeschylus

Offline Divide By Zero

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2017, 09:15:13 PM »
Thanks for this recommendation.  What he describes about approaching the past sounds exactly like how you approach history, Laura. 


This is why I didn't like reading history until your books.  It just seemed too static and narrow.  Your books are far from that and make history amazing!
“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” - George Orwell, 1984

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Caesar:
A: I was wrong to think I could change the masses by example. Humans are fickle and self-centered for the most part. Thus, if you wish to really effect changes, it can only be done by early education, and even then it is fragile and will not last. In the end you must be true to your own nature and fear nothing. If you do that you may make a difference after you are gone.

Offline Laurelayn

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Re: Extraordinary, Important Book for those Doing The Work
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2017, 10:53:16 PM »
Thank you for sharing this. It sounds realls interesting. And I like what you said about his style of writing :read:

You need to be awake when you read this one, and may have to re-read a paragraph now and then to follow the close arguments, but none of it is too complex or fancy to finally grasp.

I have to re read a few paragraphs to grasp things in everything you write too Laura  :lol: and most of the SOTT suggested books as well.
Even so, I am grateful for my capacity to.
The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.
Allan Bloom; The Closing of the American Mind