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.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!!!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!
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.