Collingwood on re-enactment: Understanding in history and interpretation in art

Title: Collingwood on re-enactment: Understanding in history and interpretation in art
Authors: Kobayashi, Chinatsu
Date: 2003
Abstract: In this thesis, I aim at an interpretation of some central parts of the philosophy of R. G. Collingwood. My fundamental hypothesis is that in his writings in the philosophy of history and in the philosophy of art, Collingwood developed a general theory of understanding. This theory, which is based on his views on mind and language, is meant to apply to both cases: the understanding of actions of historical agents, or re-enactment, and the interpretation of the work of art. In chapter 1, I present, after some biographical remarks, some of the intellectual sources of Collingwood. My main thesis is that Collingwood retained one element essential to the epistemology of his Oxford predecessors, idealists and realists alike, namely their opposition to subjective idealism. This is the origin of what I have called Collingwood's objectivism. In chapter 2, I examine Collingwood's philosophy of mind, which forms the basis of his general theory. I show that it is not at all obsolete, as he anticipated Ryle's well-known critique of Cartesian dualism and he moved gradually to a full linguistic philosophy, not far from Wittgenstein's. In chapter 3, I examine Collingwood's notion of re-enactment in the philosophy of history. I show that it is not to be understood as a psychological notion, akin to either Croce's intuizione or Dilthey's Verstehen . I also show that, according to Collingwood, in re-enactment it is the literally same thought that is grasped by the historian, not a copy of it. This objectivist element is a distinguishing feature of Collingwood's theory of understanding. Furthermore, I argue that Collingwood develops an anti-realist epistemology, which blends this objectivism with an ontological realism, while rejecting a strong conception of historical truth, which would transcend available evidence. In chapter 4, after a careful definition of the terms, I argue that Collingwood's position amounts to a minimal form of historicism and relativism. I reject the so-called "radical conversion" hypothesis. In chapter 5, I examine Collingwood's aesthetic theory and philosophy of art. I argue that it differs in essential ways from Croce's, it is not a form of 'ideal theory'. I also show that Collingwood argues for objectivity in art by extending his remarks about understanding in language to the interpretation of the work of art. He thus allows for the sharing of the emotions expressed by the artist. I finally point out that this sharing of emotions by the artist and the audience is at the basis of Collingwood's anti-individualistic philosophy of art, whose central claim is that art is the community's struggle against the corruption of consciousness. In the conclusion, I situate Collingwood's theory of understand within the current panorama, half way between the post-Quinean analytic philosophers, whose naturalism he rejects, and the continental philosophers, whose relativism he also rejects.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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