An Essay on Collingwood

  • Bernard Williams
Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)


Collingwood’s account of re-enactment is often misunderstood as providing methodological guidance to historians. Williams’s chapter is perceptive in seeing through this erroneous interpretation. Williams is however very critical of Collingwood’s account of the relationship between philosophy and history. He reads Collingwood’s account of absolute presuppositions as embracing a form of ‘radical historicism’ and argues that, like many other philosophers who reject foundationalism, Collingwood tends to use the word ‘we’ in an evasive way, both in an inclusive sense “as implying universalistic preconditions on interpretation and intelligibility” and in a contrastive sense “under which ‘we’ here and now are distinct from others elsewhere and elsewhen, who lived in others and different intelligible human formations”. William’s chapter appropriately introduces this volume since the question concerning the nature of absolute presuppositions, and in what sense they can be said to be constitutive of the forms of inquiry which they make possible, is a central concern of this collection and is discussed by several contributors.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.KeeleUK

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