Collingwood's Idea of History & Speculum Mentis

luc

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Laura said:
genero81 said:
Maybe this makes more sense in the context of the entirety of the book. And maybe I misunderstood Collingwood, but that is not what I took away from what I understood his conclusions to be. Early on in the contact with the C's they mentioned "the ever expanding present" I took that to mean that the present is the only point of reference of awareness. And as knowledge increases, including knowledge of the past, as well as awareness which begins to include, for lack of a better way to describe it, multidimensional aspects of being. i.e. future selves. The present continually expands to include all.

It just looks like a misinterpretation of Collingwood to me but I could be totally wrong. It wouldn't be the first time!
That's not what I took away either because I was attentive to Collingwood's caveats. However, I can see why Carr says that Collingwood comes "perilously close". We've all seen how easy it is to misunderstand things, or to press an idea beyond what it can bear. As far as I can see, that's the most criticism of Collingwood that Carr made. But, curiously, in the end, he pretty much says about History what Collingwood said, only in a slightly different way!!!
Very interesting! I didn't get the impression from reading Collingwood either that he is a relativist; he is far too clever and nuanced for that IMO. But it is certainly possible to misread him that way, like the postmodernists did with justified sceptical arguments - they took such ideas and pushed them so hard and so one-dimensional that all that's left is pure subjectivism, or what Collingwood might call a dogma based on the artisitic consciousness.

As I understand Collingwood, he is aware that we have no access to absolute truth, which is especially evident in history. His method seems to be to take into account the "world of thought" of those involved, including the historians. He also promotes a method that looks at concrete facts, untainted by abstractions, and untainted specifically by a distinction between subject and object. That is, a fact is interconnected with all other facts, in the sense that thought and consciousness unify them; but this means that in order to really get to the "absolute truth" regarding history, we would need to understand the totality of the "historical mind" so to speak. This is of course impossible, so there is a certain scepticism there as to whether there are "facts". But this doesn't mean, I think, that Collingwood denies historical truth; it's just that he sees the complexity of the problem.

Put another way, it's true that one can "re-enact" the thoughts of a historical actor in different ways, but that doesn't mean there are not more and less truthful ways to do so. The ability to "re-enact" depends itself on knowledge and understanding, which includes being and wisdom. The better we are, the more we know, the better we can "re-enact". This isn't relativism at all, osit.

Just some thoughts on how I understood Collingwood's ideas; perhaps I'm reading more into it than there is though.
 

John G

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luc said:
...so there is a certain skepticism there as to whether there are "facts". But this doesn't mean, I think, that Collingwood denies historical truth; it's just that he sees the complexity of the problem.

Put another way, it's true that one can "re-enact" the thoughts of a historical actor in different ways, but that doesn't mean there are not more and less truthful ways to do so. The ability to "re-enact" depends itself on knowledge and understanding, which includes being and wisdom. The better we are, the more we know, the better we can "re-enact". This isn't relativism at all, osit.
Laura said:
This criticism of Collingwood is, IMO, very apt and in the last part, we see something like "the ends justify the means" which is an abomination to Truth.

So, that is a danger of taking Collingwood extraordinary work and giving it a twist and then pushing it TOO FAR. Carr discusses this but you will need to read the book for that exposition.
Yeah Collingwood really seems to point to how important the historian and good "reenactment" thinking is. It could be bad in the ends justifies the means sense if some sacred cow or agenda is involved but if "truth" is the ends then one historian can be in a better "thinking" place than another even if their current views are similar.
 

herondancer

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Bluelamp said:
Yeah Collingwood really seems to point to how important the historian and good "reenactment" thinking is. It could be bad in the ends justifies the means sense if some sacred cow or agenda is involved but if "truth" is the ends then one historian can be in a better "thinking" place than another even if their current views are similar.
Collingwood does remark on one historian being better suited than another to certain periods of history. That person is better able to enter into the particular 'spirit of the time', and thus perform the 'reenactment' needed to understand the figures of that period and their motivations. He also says there are no "Dark Ages", only those whose thought we are unable enter into and understand. The Enlightenment had a fair amount of contempt for the Middle Ages, which Collingwood felt was unjustified, and which he attributed to their being unable enter mentally into that period.
 

genero81

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luc said:
Laura said:
That's not what I took away either because I was attentive to Collingwood's caveats. However, I can see why Carr says that Collingwood comes "perilously close". We've all seen how easy it is to misunderstand things, or to press an idea beyond what it can bear. As far as I can see, that's the most criticism of Collingwood that Carr made. But, curiously, in the end, he pretty much says about History what Collingwood said, only in a slightly different way!!!
Very interesting! I didn't get the impression from reading Collingwood either that he is a relativist; he is far too clever and nuanced for that IMO. But it is certainly possible to misread him that way, like the postmodernists did with justified sceptical arguments - they took such ideas and pushed them so hard and so one-dimensional that all that's left is pure subjectivism, or what Collingwood might call a dogma based on the artisitic consciousness.

As I understand Collingwood, he is aware that we have no access to absolute truth, which is especially evident in history. His method seems to be to take into account the "world of thought" of those involved, including the historians. He also promotes a method that looks at concrete facts, untainted by abstractions, and untainted specifically by a distinction between subject and object. That is, a fact is interconnected with all other facts, in the sense that thought and consciousness unify them; but this means that in order to really get to the "absolute truth" regarding history, we would need to understand the totality of the "historical mind" so to speak. This is of course impossible, so there is a certain scepticism there as to whether there are "facts". But this doesn't mean, I think, that Collingwood denies historical truth; it's just that he sees the complexity of the problem.

Put another way, it's true that one can "re-enact" the thoughts of a historical actor in different ways, but that doesn't mean there are not more and less truthful ways to do so. The ability to "re-enact" depends itself on knowledge and understanding, which includes being and wisdom. The better we are, the more we know, the better we can "re-enact". This isn't relativism at all, osit.

Just some thoughts on how I understood Collingwood's ideas; perhaps I'm reading more into it than there is though.
That sounds like a pretty good recap on Collingwood's line of reasoning to me.
 

whitecoast

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herondancer said:
Bluelamp said:
Yeah Collingwood really seems to point to how important the historian and good "reenactment" thinking is. It could be bad in the ends justifies the means sense if some sacred cow or agenda is involved but if "truth" is the ends then one historian can be in a better "thinking" place than another even if their current views are similar.
Collingwood does remark on one historian being better suited than another to certain periods of history. That person is better able to enter into the particular 'spirit of the time', and thus perform the 'reenactment' needed to understand the figures of that period and their motivations. He also says there are no "Dark Ages", only those whose thought we are unable enter into and understand. The Enlightenment had a fair amount of contempt for the Middle Ages, which Collingwood felt was unjustified, and which he attributed to their being unable enter mentally into that period.
I almost kind of feel that, with the horrendous effects of modern education on modern students, our own capacity for self-knowledge as a society is being diminished by equivocating everything that has gone before -- all the religious wisdom, all the letters from the brightest thinkers and salons of bygone ages -- as simply the manifestation of a patriarchical, superstitious, racist, transphobic, etc plague upon the world. By Collingwood's standards one of these modern dandies are just fumbling around with a flashlight and don't seem to know ANYTHING about history other than Hitler and the American slave trade.

I think it would be a good exercise for people to read old books. To see the attitudes of people from these supposedly barbaric and alien time periods. Perhaps it would help them (and myself, God knows) to gain a bit more perspective. I think this would align strongly with developing the brain regions responsible for helping us to empathize and read the agency and intent behind people and their words. Imagine how much gangrenous propaganda could be sloughed off about this age or that by just learning to meet a person from this time period and just invite them to tea, so to speak. Most people who are radicalized these days can't even chat with the person across the street who is in a different camp, so it's certainly no mass remedy. But for those who wish to gather knowledge and develop our awareness of humanity as a whole, I wonder what we could learn together.
 

Corvus

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How are you going to re-enact actions of some psychopathic king in the past?

Besides culture, tradition of that particular people you have to take into account and general psyche, and general is only scrap on the surface when you take into account that nowdays we can not even comprehend actions of some people, how they tick, plus historians are poor psychologists. Not yet on this level is this possible.
 

Laura

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Corvinus said:
How are you going to re-enact actions of some psychopathic king in the past?

Besides culture, tradition of that particular people you have to take into account and general psyche, and general is only scrap on the surface when you take into account that nowdays we can not even comprehend actions of some people, how they tick, plus historians are poor psychologists. Not yet on this level is this possible.
You might be surprised. Read Waite's book "The Psychopathic God." Read Kahn's "The Education of Julius Caesar". Read Carcopino's "Cicero: The Secrets of His Correspondence". Read Engberg-Pedersen's "Paul and the Stoics". There are others, but pretty clearly, SOME historians are pretty good psychologists.
 

Phill4

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Corvinus said:
How are you going to re-enact actions of some psychopathic king in the past?

Besides culture, tradition of that particular people you have to take into account and general psyche, and general is only scrap on the surface when you take into account that nowdays we can not even comprehend actions of some people, how they tick, plus historians are poor psychologists. Not yet on this level is this possible.
Collingwood explains that while actions are don't follow reason when looked at them in historical sequence, looking at it form the inside is how we can understand the reasoning behind the act and thread it together, that is considering everything happening at the time as if we were there.

It think it is about how all the elements on the play are organized in relation with one another, plus knowledge of psychopathy as such.

People did not have the knowledge of psychopathy and instead deified them as untouchable beings, (convenient 4D STS maneuver) but psychopaths are still bound to the laws of psychology.

If we know a person gets a kick out of killing people in gruesome ways, we may not in actuality re-enact this, but we can understand it as a motivation, the result of thought and will as he explains, for them the thought of killing a person is as motivational as for us cooking a big dinner for the family, so the processing of information is very different in both scenarios internally, though still comprehensible within our possibilities.

I think what Collingwood means is that we have the same functions in terms of construction of thought, I.e motivation-reason-thought-action, just that psychopaths process the information under different categories that results in a personality centered in pleasure seeking in the suffering of others. (which sounds similar to 4D STS feeding)

It is a process an internal configuration of all functions

My two cents
 

Approaching Infinity

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Laura said:
Corvinus said:
How are you going to re-enact actions of some psychopathic king in the past?

Besides culture, tradition of that particular people you have to take into account and general psyche, and general is only scrap on the surface when you take into account that nowdays we can not even comprehend actions of some people, how they tick, plus historians are poor psychologists. Not yet on this level is this possible.
You might be surprised. Read Waite's book "The Psychopathic God." Read Kahn's "The Education of Julius Caesar". Read Carcopino's "Cicero: The Secrets of His Correspondence". Read Engberg-Pedersen's "Paul and the Stoics". There are others, but pretty clearly, SOME historians are pretty good psychologists.
Yep, and it's not as if psychopaths are irrational (qualification below!). They are eminently rational: they want something, and they put a plan in motion in order to get it. The problem only comes from historians who are naive enough to think that "no one would plan and carry out such a thing". But even that is probably a minority opinion, especially after WWII and the widespread consensus that the Nazis put into motion some very sick plans. Many historians are probably bad psychologists, but that just means they're bad historians too. There are plenty of good historians with decent insights into the psychology of their subjects.

Collingwood actually shows how it's done in that example he gives of solving a murder. The same principles apply to a psychopathic murderer. Some people may find the motives of a serial killer incomprehensible, but they won't deny the motive: the killer wanted to torture and kill someone. And sometimes, through evidence, you can find the reasons behind the obvious motive: sexual paraphilia, pathological misanthropy, deviant curiousity, or whatever. But it's not as if psychopaths are totally irrational, e.g. someone who assassinates a foreign leader because he was hungry and wanted a sandwich.

That said, psychopaths do have irrational features, e.g. their tendency to lie even when it doesn't serve them. But that gets more into psychology than history - and the study of human irrationality in general. But there's enough rationality there to make their actions intelligible.
 

3DStudent

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I finished The Idea of History last weekend. I agree with a lot that was said, especially when you get into the flow of his thinking and everything comes easily, but other times you have to reread some things. There was one paragraph that really stumped me when talking about the objector and I just said I'd come back to it, and I understand it better now (my bold):

And the way out?

Like Collingwood says, to realize one's error is to have solved that error. Learning about our cognitive errors, the ways in which our bodies/brains can hinder us, and really accepting that - is actually to have solved the problem. And once you know what the problem is, you can get your act together by reminding yourself (or being reminded) that you already know "the error of your ways" and know the alternative.
I have a few other notes that tie in our cosmology, but one that stood out and hit me quite profoundly was this (my bold):

[quote author= page 310]
Again, there can be a history of morals; for in moral action we are doing certain things on purpose, in order to bring our practical life into harmony with the ideal of what it ought to be. This ideal is at once our conception of our own life as it should be, or our intention of what we mean to make it, and our criterion of whether what we have done has been done well or ill. Here too, as in the other cases, our purposes change as our activity develops, but the purpose is always in advance of the act. And it is impossible to act morally except when, and in so far as, one acts on purpose; duty cannot be done by accident or inadvertence; no one can do his duty except a person who means to do his duty.[/quote]

The note I wrote was, "'Reality of the Future' is having a past by making conscious efforts to measure ourselves by." I had to reread it and try to get back into my own recent historical self, because I didn't have the exact feeling and thought associations as when I wrote that note. I find that's pretty common, you cannot convey everything you are experiencing in even your own writing.

But the paragraph has lots of what sounds like making an Aim, and fine tuning it when you get new knowledge. And not missing the mark (sinning). It sounds as though when you fine tune and make these changes, it's along a timeline that you create, and you sort of create the history of your self.
 

lilies

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Re: Collingwood's Idea of History, Speculum Mentis & Gurdjieff's Primitive Cosmology

Laura said:
Jones said:
Corvinus said:
Yas,
When it comes to human nature and his view that it is changing I would disagree, human nature is not changing, human perceptions, desires, thinking and technological knowledge is progressing, but alas only in certain spheres and in limited amount. Human nature was and is still entropic and the rules are more or less the same as prior to 1000 years ago, just there are gloves today.
Yes, Collingwood makes a distinction between progress and development. A change if it brings as many downsides as it does upsides then the net effect is zero - that would be a development. Progress happens when there are more upsides than downsides.
The book that follows on from the work of Collingwood, and takes us to the corrective (and small corrective is needed!) is Carr's "What is History?" https://www.amazon.com/What-History-Penguin-H-Carr/dp/0140135847/ref=sr_1_2 It's a small book, just 200 pages incl references and index, and a clear read. It was written in the 60s, I believe, and thus, the language is more modern and easy. Collingwood says that history cannot be used to predict the future and, in one sense, he is right: it's never an exact repeat. But Carr disagrees and says that generalities can be made that are very helpful in predicting probabilities. But, as we know, probabilities are not certainties.
Bolded part is precisely what I'm working with. Key component! Thank You, Laura! Now I'll have to read Carr too, to determine, what he knew and how he said it - what I would wager he did carefully - , has anything I can use to further my experiments.
 

PERLOU

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Merci une nouvelle fois pour vos partages si enrichissants...
Malheureusement les livres proposés par Laura ne sont pas traduits en Français d'après une recherche sur Amazon France...
J'ai reçu "les 13 vertus de l'homme" de Dave Rottman

Thank you once again for your sharing so rewarding ...
Unfortunately the books proposed by Laura are not translated into French from a search on Amazon France ...
I received "the 13 virtues of man" Dave Rottman
 

loreta

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PERLOU said:
Merci une nouvelle fois pour vos partages si enrichissants...
Malheureusement les livres proposés par Laura ne sont pas traduits en Français d'après une recherche sur Amazon France...
J'ai reçu "les 13 vertus de l'homme" de Dave Rottman

Thank you once again for your sharing so rewarding ...
Unfortunately the books proposed by Laura are not translated into French from a search on Amazon France ...
I received "the 13 virtues of man" Dave Rottman
Salut Perlou,
en cherchant, c'est plus fort que moi, j'ai trouvé en français le livre sur la correspondance de Ciceron.

https://www.amazon.fr/gp/offer-listing/B003L9A8YU/ref=dp_olp_used_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=used

Hi Perlou,
I found the book about Cicero in French here, at Amazon.fr
 

Zar

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FOTCM Member
Re: Collingwood's Idea of History, Speculum Mentis & Gurdjieff's Primitive Cosmology

lilies said:
Laura said:
Jones said:
Corvinus said:
Yas,
When it comes to human nature and his view that it is changing I would disagree, human nature is not changing, human perceptions, desires, thinking and technological knowledge is progressing, but alas only in certain spheres and in limited amount. Human nature was and is still entropic and the rules are more or less the same as prior to 1000 years ago, just there are gloves today.
Yes, Collingwood makes a distinction between progress and development. A change if it brings as many downsides as it does upsides then the net effect is zero - that would be a development. Progress happens when there are more upsides than downsides.
The book that follows on from the work of Collingwood, and takes us to the corrective (and small corrective is needed!) is Carr's "What is History?" https://www.amazon.com/What-History-Penguin-H-Carr/dp/0140135847/ref=sr_1_2 It's a small book, just 200 pages incl references and index, and a clear read. It was written in the 60s, I believe, and thus, the language is more modern and easy. Collingwood says that history cannot be used to predict the future and, in one sense, he is right: it's never an exact repeat. But Carr disagrees and says that generalities can be made that are very helpful in predicting probabilities. But, as we know, probabilities are not certainties.
Bolded part is precisely what I'm working with. Key component! Thank You, Laura! Now I'll have to read Carr too, to determine, what he knew and how he said it - what I would wager he did carefully - , has anything I can use to further my experiments.
I think one example of "predicting" future possibilities could be the outline Lobascewski presents of the changing of civilizations under psychopathic rule.
 

luc

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With regard to Collingwood's view on truth/relativism, here is an excerpt from Speculum Mentis (about pos. 4035 on kindle) that sums up his quite sophisticated thinking (blue how I understood him):

Speculum Mentis said:
All these assertions of something other than the absolute mind itself are versions of a single error: the error of abstraction, of failing to realize that subject and object, condition and conditioned, ground and consequence, particular and universal, can only be distinctions which fall within one and the same whole, and that this whole can only be the infinite fact which is the absolute mind. A fact which has anything outside it is not the concrete fact. If that which falls outside it is its own law or nature, we have fallen into the abstraction which tears apart the individual into particular and universal; if another fact, we have torn apart the individual into two individuals unrelated and therefore both fictitious.

{What he's saying here is that there can't be two separate worlds: one of principles and one of facts. But even if we just think of two facts as separate, this is an abstraction and hence not real, because everything is connected. Two facts can be distinct, i.e. distinguishable, but never separate.}

Our inquiry has not only abolished the notion of a map of knowledge distinct from knowledge itself: it has also abolished the notion of an external world other than the mind. It has not, of course, abolished the distinction between subject and object; on the contrary, it has established our right to use that distinction by showing its necessity in the life of thought. It is no more abolished than are the distinctions between truth and error, good and evil, particular and universal; these distinctions are only abolished by the coincidentia oppositorum which is the suicide of abstract thought, and conserved by the synthesis of opposites which is the life of concrete thought.

{In other words, our thought can't help but make distinctions between such things, subject and object, good and evil etc.; but these things are not separate, it's all part of the mind. We need these distinctions to progress in our thought in a dialectical manner: the life of concrete thought, the process of holding two opposites in mind and coming to a conclusion.}

Just as we began by assuming a map of knowledge, so we began by assuming an external world, a world of which we could say with the realists that it really is what, errors apart, we think it to be: a world of which we could even say that it was what it was quite irrespective of any ignorance or error of our own about it. Our position at the start was wholly realistic, and there is a sense in which it is realistic to the end. But we did not—and this is where realists tend to go wrong—assume that ‘errors apart’ is a clause which need not be taken seriously. We did not assume that any one form of experience could be accepted as already, in its main lines, wholly free from error. Led by this principle, we found that the real world was implied, but not asserted, in art; asserted, but not thought out, in religion; thought out, but only subject to fictitious assumptions, in science; and therefore in all these we found an ostensible object—the work of art, God, the material universe—which was confessedly a figment and not the real object. The real object is the mind itself, as we now know.

But in abolishing the notion of an external world other than the mind we do not assert any of the silly nonsense usually described by unintelligent critics as idealism. We do not assert that the trees and hills and people of our world are ‘unreal’, or ‘mere ideas in my mind’, still less that matter is nothing but a swarm of mind-particles. The very essence of trees and hills and people is that they should be not myself but my objects in perception; they are not subjective but objective, not states of myself but facts that I know. None the less, my knowing them is organic to them: it is because they are what they are that I can know them, because I know them that they can be what to me they really are. They and I alike are members of one whole, a whole which the destruction of one part would in a sense destroy thioughout, as the death of our dearest friend darkens for us the very light of the sun.

[...]

The world of abstract concepts—the material world—is an objective world called into existence indeed by an error of the mind, but by that very error asserted as real. Hence to make the abstraction and to regard the reality of its object as self-evident are one and the same thing, and these farcical refutations of idealism are only successful as showing, what nobody doubts, that it is as possible to put your blind eye to a microscope as to a telescope.

Now the construction of such an abstract world is not a pointless or purposeless waste of energy on the part of the mind. To suppose that this is so, that religion is only a fiction and science only an arbitrary play of abstractions, is the error of those critics, whether of religion or science, who unintelligently praise one by umntelligently condemning the other. In the toil of art, the agony of religion, and the relentless labour of science, actual truth is being won and the mind is coming to its own true stature. This is simply because the ostensible object whose apparent articulations are being so patiently traced is not the real object, and because every new touch given to the determination of the former does not obscure, but rather illustrates, the latter.

{This recognizes that the various forms of consciousness like religion and science have merit. Even in their error they illuminate the real object, which is mind. So, truth can be gained from those, as long as we keep their shortcomings in mind and see them from a higher perspective, so to speak.}
So it seems to me Collingwood doesn't assume that truth, historical or otherwise, is relative, but that the discovery of truth is a very complex journey, a journey of the mind discovering itself. This means we need to operate on the highest level possible to us on our current position in that journey, and that we need to watch out carefully not to fall into the various simplifications/errors that can trap us and make us think we can avoid the grind and hard work that is the journey towards self-discovery. Or so I understand it.
 
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