Printer Friendly

Does "I know" tolerate metaphysical emphasis? R. G. Collingwood's affirmative answer to Wittgenstein's rhetorical question.

   One might point to R. G. Collingwood as another philosopher who
   seemed more "conservative" than Wittgenstein during their
   lifetimes, but whose greater historical sense gives his arguments
   an added interest to a later generation. (1)

   Wittgenstein largely ignored history, and disliked science.
   Collingwood respected science and based his entire philosophy on
   history.... Collingwood's emphasis on historical change and
   constant tension in absolute presuppositions counteracts ... the
   danger of falling into assumptions of functional coherence....
   Wittgensteinian accounts of social understanding have, notoriously,
   tended to favour a static picture of a fully functioning and
   coherent system. (2)

Only once in his entire oeuvre does R. G. Collingwood mention Wittgenstein's name. In Wittgenstein's writings Collingwood's name nowhere appears. (3) Yet the congeniality between their later writings has often, and from diverse points of view, been mentioned. At first sight, the reasons therefore seem obvious. During the interwar period, both Wittgenstein and Collingwood, both born in 1889, were at work in the two leading English universities, respectively Cambridge and Oxford, where analytic philosophy with a strong neopositivist bent was predominant. In the Oxbridge environment of those days, Collingwood and Wittgenstein, who explicitly disassociated themselves from the dominant realist and neopositivist trends at that time, had the reputation of being "lone wolves." (4)

The resemblance between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's later work is especially striking. (5) J. A. Martin, Jr. was the very first to put into relief the congeniality between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's views on language and metaphysics." In the wake of his article, a great number of subsequent articles have highlighted the resemblances between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's positions in the domains of philosophy of language, anthropology, and logic. In the first part of this essay, I recall some aspects of these resemblances in their writings during the 1930s, namely, their common rejection of realist and neopositivist positions in logic and epistemology, accompanied by their critique of propositional logic. Embroidering upon these salient similarities, I focus subsequently on the relation between On Certainty and An Essay on Metaphysics, in particular with regard to the logical function of what Wittgenstein and Collingwood respectively refer to as "frames of reference" and "absolute presuppositions."

However, in spite of the striking similarities, the main difference between these two writings consists in their attitudes toward metaphysics. In the second part, I concentrate on that difference. Whereas Wittgenstein never uses the term metaphysics, Collingwood defines his historical project explicitly as a project of metaphysics. Put differently, while Wittgenstein's thesis in On Certainty is that "I know" does not tolerate metaphysical emphasis, Collingwood claims in An Essay on Metaphysics that it is the specific task of metaphysics to articulate our basic presuppositions in their historical transformations. In Wittgenstein's perspective, the question whether our basic frames of reference tolerate a metaphysical emphasis is a rhetorical one. In Collingwood's view, this question regarding the need for a metaphysical emphasis of our basic presuppositions gets a frankly affirmative answer. Of course, that significant difference has been noted, but it has never really been examined. Even more, the majority of Collingwood scholars saw no reason at all why his historical study of basic presuppositions should usurp the name of metaphysics and, therefore, they rejected the term as a very unfortunately chosen one. (8)

In the third part of this article I propose in four steps an explanation why Collingwood's term "metaphysics" is not so idiosyncratic as some supposed it to be and in what sense his metaphysics differs from Wittgenstein's approach. My explanation is mainly based on Collingwood's presentation of his metaphysical theory of objective idealism in his never published manuscript "Realism and Idealism: Central Problems in Metaphysics." That manuscript is known and mentioned by the younger generation of Collingwood scholars, but even those scholars who accept the term "metaphysics" as a description of Collingwood's method continue to neglect the role of objective idealism in this respect and lapse into silence when articulating the difference between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's approaches. (9)


Resemblances. During the first half of the 1930s, Wittgenstein introduced the distinction between (scientific) statements and grammatical rules which generate these statements:
   We can draw the distinction between hypothesis and grammatical rule
   by means of the words 'true' and 'false' on the one hand, and
   'practical' and 'impractical' on the other. We do not speak of
   propositions as being practical or impractical. The words
   'practical' and 'impractical' characterize rules. A rule is not
   true or false. (10)

By making that distinction, he clearly indicated the level on which the philosopher's activity is to be situated. Whereas his task is the description of the practical value of the rules, the task of verification or validation of the truth-value of the hypothetical propositions is reserved for the empirical sciences.

A few years later, Collingwood, in nearly identical terms, emphasized the distinction between verifiable propositions, on the one hand, and presuppositions, on the other:
   the beliefs whose history the metaphysician has to study are not
   answers to questions but only presuppositions of questions, and
   therefore the distinction between what is true and what is false
   does not apply to them, but only the distinction between what is
   presupposed and what is not presupposed.... This might be expressed
   by calling them 'absolute' presuppositions."

By making that distinction, Collingwood equally indicated the level on which to situate the metaphysician's activity: being aware that the distinction between true and false is not applicable to absolute presuppositions, he must be content with the description of their historical character.

In what follows, I dwell upon the background of these salient resemblances between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's later work in three different steps. In the first section, some aspects of their fundamental disagreement with realist and neopositivist tendencies in their philosophical environment are outlined. The next section focuses on their attitudes toward propositional logic. The third section presents the striking similarities between Wittgenstein's On Certainty and Collingwood's An Essay on Metaphysics.

Fundamental Disagreement with Realism and Neopositivism. Wittgenstein's On Certainty is set up as an answer to two famous papers by G. E. Moore, "A Defence of Common Sense" and "Proof of the External World." In these papers, Moore had asserted that he was able to refute the skeptical claim that we cannot know with certainty the existence of the outer world. To challenge this skeptical thesis, he claimed in "Proof of an External World" to be able to prove that external things exist by holding up first one hand, then another, and subsequently formulating the proposition, "Here is one hand and here is another." Since this proposition and analogous ones are propositions the truth-value of which can be verified or falsified, he was convinced to have demonstrated the untenability of philosophical skepticism.

But Wittgenstein was not convinced at all. At first glance, Moore's proposition, "Here is one hand and here is another," seems to be an empirical proposition, used as an answer to the empirical question or hypothesis whether external things do exist. But for Wittgenstein, a proposition is an answer to an empirical question or hypothesis only when the opposite answer ("here are not two hands") makes sense. When the opposite answer is senseless, then the proposition does not provide an empirical description; rather, it describes the way we refer to the world. Hence, Moore's proposition is not an empirical but a grammatical proposition:
   If 'I know etc.' is conceived as a grammatical proposition, of
   course the 'I' cannot be important. And it properly means 'There is
   no such thing as a doubt in this case' or 'The expression 'I do not
   know' makes no sense in this case'. And of course it follows from
   this that 'I know' makes no sense either."

By conceiving "I know" as a grammatical proposition, exempt from doubt, and by distinguishing grammatical propositions from empirical ones, Wittgenstein actually refutes Moore's realist stance: "T know' is here a logical insight. Only realism can't be proved by means of it." (13)

Wittgenstein's disagreement with Moore's epistemological realist position, as developed in On Certainty, had already been foreshadowed by his dissent with the Vienna Circle. Despite incidental contacts with individual members of the Circle (Schlick, Waismann, Carnap) in the years 1926 through 1928, where the Tractatus was much commented on, Wittgenstein mostly declined the invitations to their weekly meetings. In spite of obvious terminological resemblances between his Tractatus and the Circle's manifesto, Die Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung: Der 'Wiener Kreis, he saw the contrast between their philosophical starting points as too fundamental.

Both Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the Vienna Circle's manifesto demarcated the domain of the cognitive by accepting only two kinds of propositions, either descriptions of empirically verifiable facts or depictions of logical-mathematical relations. Put differently, Wittgenstein and the logical positivists agreed on the questions whether and where to draw a borderline between the cognitive and the noncognitive domains. There was, however, a world of difference between their positions regarding the valuation of both domains. Their different attitudes concerning the status of the metaphysical or the mystical were a case in point. Whereas the Vienna Circle rejected metaphysics as a genuine philosophical discipline--stigmatizing it as nonsensical or, at best, as pseudo-cognitive interpretations of fuzzy feelings--and, therefore, intended to free the cognitive domain from the noncognitive, Wittgenstein wished to emphasize the very importance of the noncognitive part of human experience.

During the 1920s and 1930s, in his conversations with Carnap, Waismann, Schlick, and Ayer, Wittgenstein had explicitly refuted their use of his verification principle as a theory of meaning. In particular, he disassociated the verification principle from the Vienna Circle's logical positivism and empiricism, situating its field of application within a transcendental framework of grammatical and conceptual investigations. Even in his so-called verificationist period, there remained a yawning gap between his position and that of the logical positivists, as elaborated by Schlick, Waismann, and Carnap and made accessible to a broader audience in Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic. (14)

From the end of November 1932 to March 1933, A. J. Ayer had been participating in the weekly meetings of the Vienna Circle. (15) In 1936, the year of Collingwood's appointment to the Waynflete Chair of Metaphysical Philosophy, Ayer published Language, Truth and Logic, in which he undermined the possibility of a metaphysical project. Language, Truth and Logic was, for the most part, based on Vienna Circle ideas. The proper meaning of Collingwood's concept of metaphysics, as elaborated after 1936, can be understood only if it is read as a direct reaction to Ayer's refutation of metaphysics. In other words, Collingwood's An Essay on Metaphysics may be read as an indirect and partial answer to the Vienna Circle ideas with regard to metaphysical issues, transformed and translated into Ayer's terminology.

Collingwood's reaction to Ayer's logical positivism in the late 1930s had been equally foreshadowed by his reaction, from the early 1920s onward, to the realist position of his Oxford colleagues, Cook Wilson and H. A. Prichard. But in the same period he also mentioned Moore's paper "The Refutation of Idealism" as a case in point of a realist position. Although, at face value, his only reservation seems to concern Moore's lack of regard for historical fact in his critique of Berkeley's idealism (the view criticized by Moore was not the view Berkeley actually held), it is clear that Collingwood's critique aims at Moore's own realist doctrine as well:
   This doctrine, which was rendered plausible by choosing as examples
   of knowledge statements like 'this is a red rose', 'my hand is
   resting on the table', where familiarity with the mental operations
   involved has bred not so much contempt as oblivion, was quite
   incompatible with what I had learned in my 'laboratory' of
   historical thought. (16)

Propositional Logic and its Alternatives. In his "laboratory" of historical thought Collingwood had learned not only that epistemological realism was a mistake, but that it was closely related to propositional logic as well. (17) Since Ayer's attack on the possibility of metaphysics in 1936 was based on a mixture of realism and propositional logic, which accepted only empirically verifiable and analytic propositions as meaningful propositions, (18) Collingwood felt prompted, since he held the Waynflete Chair in Metaphysics, to an immediate reaction. His method in arguing his case against Ayer was to accept his premises while denying his conclusions. Ayer maintains that metaphysical statements are nonsensical because they are not verifiable; Collingwood's claim is that metaphysical statements are not verifiable because they are not propositions directly describing empirical reality but presuppositions causing by "logical efficacy" verifiable propositions to arise. Because metaphysical statements are not, like empirical propositions, empirically verifiable, Ayer's attack on metaphysics is an attack not on metaphysics, but on pseudometaphysics. (19)

In order to clarify his own position, Collingwood put forward his "logic of question and answer" as an alternative to propositional logic. Within that alternate logic, knowledge is not understood as a direct comprehension of reality, but as an activity in which questions and answers are correlative. The meaning of a proposition is always dependent on the question it is meant to answer. Collingwood's concept of metaphysics as the study of absolute presuppositions is intimately related to that logic of question and answer.

The central argument of the logic of question and answer, as elaborated in An Autobiography and An Essay on Metaphysics, is quite simple and can be set out in five steps:20 (1) All statements which are answers to questions can be called propositions; (2) Every question involves a presupposition; (3) Some of these presuppositions are relative, others are absolute; (4) Whereas relative presuppositions are relative to one question as its presupposition and relative to another as its answer, absolute presuppositions are never answers to any question; (5) Accordingly, absolute presuppositions are not propositions. If verifiability and truth or falsity can be predicated only of propositions, absolute presuppositions are unverifiable and not amenable to truth/falsity. (21) It is against this background that Collingwood's (partial) definition of the metaphysician's task must be understood: "Metaphysics ... is primarily at any given time an attempt to discover what the people of that time believe about the world's general nature; such beliefs being the presuppositions of all their 'physics', that is, their inquiries into its detail." (22)

Although Wittgenstein never elaborated an alternative logic to propositional logic, let alone a logic of question and answer, he repeatedly emphasized that everything descriptive of our way of thinking or of our language-game belongs to logic. (23) And within the logic of our thought and language, he equally made a distinction between the propositions the truth-value of which can be verified and those which form the framework or the scaffolding of our thought and speech. In one passage, he even comes very close to Collingwood's terminology of the logical efficacy of questions: "the questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt, are as it were like hinges on which those turn." (24)

At first glance, there seems a lack of sharpness in Wittgenstein's drawing of boundaries between empirical propositions and those scaffolding our thinking; he even adds that the concept "proposition" itself is not a sharp one. (25) At other moments, he makes a clear-cut distinction between those statements which he compares to rules, on the one hand, and empirical propositions, on the other, so that he even allows himself to write that "no such proposition as 'There are physical objects' can be formulated." (26) But however restrictive or wide the application of the concept "proposition" may be, Wittgenstein's distinction between rules and empirical propositions is basically analogous to Collingwood's distinction between absolute presuppositions and empirical propositions. (27)

On Certainty and An Essay on Metaphysics. It may then come as no surprise that the logical function of statements that are exempt from doubt in On Certainty is akin to the logical function of statements that Collingwood designates as absolute presuppositions in An Essay on Metaphysics. In what follows, I detail four points of resemblance.

First, both authors concentrate on statements that are at the root of a system of thought. Whereas Collingwood calls these statements "absolute presuppositions," Wittgenstein uses a host of images and metaphors in order to define them. Thus he speaks about "certain propositions [that] seem to underlie all questions and all thinking"; (28) about a "belief that is not founded" (29) but "in the entire system of our language-games belongs to the foundations"; (30) and he refers to "propositions which have a peculiar logical role in the system [of our empirical propositions]." (31) Elsewhere he writes that they belong to "our frame of reference" (32) constituting a world-picture that is as "the substratum of all my enquiring and asserting," (33) "the scaffolding of our thoughts," (34) and "the element in which arguments have their life." (35)

Second, Wittgenstein and Collingwood maintain that since philosophical or metaphysical statements play a peculiar logical role, they are therefore not propositions in the same sense that empirical propositions are. Within the context of Collingwood's logic of question and answer, absolute presuppositions are not propositions, because they are never answers to questions and have no truth-value. (36) Within the context of Wittgenstein's distinction between grammatical and empirical statements, a statement like "There are physical objects" is not a proposition because it cannot be formulated and thus is nonsense. (37) Consequently, Wittgenstein, like Collingwood, emphasizes that these "propositions" are without truth-value but function as "the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false." (38)

Third, both authors hold the view that language-games and absolute presuppositions never come to us by choice. We are taught them within a specific tradition which is bound together by education. Wittgenstein's statements, such as "It is not as if we chose the game," (39) and '"We are quite sure of it' does not mean just that every single person is certain of it, but that we belong to a community which is bound together by science and education," (40) reflect Collingwood's statement in his manuscript The Function of Metaphysics in Civilization, a first draft of what later became the first part of An Essay on Metaphysics: "How do we come by metaphysical propositions? They come to each one of us, no doubt, by way of education, like any other traditional matter. We are taught to think with certain presuppositions, just as we are taught to wear trousers." (41)

Finally, for Wittgenstein and Collingwood alike, these propositions, with their peculiar logical function, are susceptible to change. A proposition functioning at a certain moment in a certain culture as the root of thought by creating a world-picture may at another moment or in another culture lose that status: "fluid propositions hardened, and hard ones became fluid." (42) In Collingwood's view, absolute presuppositions are by definition open to change throughout time.

Hence, what once functioned as an absolute presupposition can lose that status in a different period and become a relative one.

Preliminary conclusion: the authors' starting points for their philosophical inquiries are identical. They are not only related to an analogous attitude toward realism and logical positivism. They equally share the view that, in order to think or speak about reality, every endeavor to do this is situated within a certain context. For Wittgenstein, this context is constituted by a framework which is designated by terms like "frames of reference," "rules," "language-games," or "forms-of-life"; for Collingwood, every act of speech or thought is situated within a certain constellation of absolute presuppositions.


Differences. The decisive point of difference between Collingwood and Wittgenstein is their attitude toward metaphysics. When Janik and Toulmin refer to the "conservative" character of Collingwood's thought, they may have had in mind his defense of the possibility of cognitive metaphysics. (43) In what follows, I first draw attention to two unmistakable points: in On Certainty, Wittgenstein neither mentioned the term "metaphysics" nor specified which aspects of our frames of reference are subject to historical evolution. Second, I contrast these two characteristics of Wittgenstein's approach with Collingwood's approach in An Essay on Metaphysics, where he defines his project as historical metaphysics, underlining the undeniably historical evolution of absolute presuppositions.

Wittgenstein's Attitude toward Metaphysics. The term "metaphysics," or rather the term "metaphysical," has often been related to Wittgenstein's philosophical approach to the mysterious and mystical aspects of reality. Two examples. In his "uncommon" reading of the Tractatus, Ignace Verhack calls Wittgenstein's project "deictic" metaphysics. In Verhack's view, Wittgenstein's assessment of the role of language-games appears as a method in function of something else, namely, the act of pointing toward a mystical dimension. Verhack's intention is to show that Wittgenstein's critical rejection of theoretical metaphysics may be seen as the breakthrough of a new awareness of the metaphysical as such. Therefore, Wittgenstein's philosophy might be called deictic metaphysics: a method to point to the metaphysical dimension of the ineffable, the mystical that can be shown only by drawing the limits of what can be said. (44)

From a completely different angle, Peter Strawson equally relates the term "metaphysics" to Wittgenstein's philosophical approach. He suggests that Wittgenstein in On Certainty, by establishing the major structural features of our conceptual scheme and their mutual connections, follows a procedure analogous to his own procedure as a descriptive metaphysician. Moreover, he opposes that procedure to the methodology of what he refers to as revisionary metaphysics. (45)

Thus, even if it is clear that for Wittgenstein the traditional aspiration to depict a timeless reality is set aside in favor of a deictic project in the Tractatus or a descriptive account of different autonomous language-games in Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty, a host of interpreters have related these accounts to the project of metaphysics. But at the same time, they stressed the distance between Wittgenstein's project and that of traditional metaphysics:
   [It] comes nearest to being the 'metaphysics' of Wittgenstein's
   final philosophy, but it is a long way from the metaphysics of the
   Tractatus, and an even longer way from traditional metaphysics....
   Such facts do not tell us anything about the ultimate nature of the
   world ... but neither, on the other hand, are they the creation and
   projection of a subject. Instead, they belong to common language
   activities, and these are a final basis, not to be further grounded
   or explained. (46)

Wittgenstein's Rejection of the Term "Metaphysics." All these suggestions to relate his philosophy to a certain form of metaphysics do not eliminate the stubborn fact that Wittgenstein himself never uses the term. On the contrary, in On Certainty he even rejects its use in unambiguous terms: "It is as if 'I know' did not tolerate a metaphysical emphasis." (47) As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein explicitly calls the rules of each language-game not founded. They form a socially shared background which determines what can function as foundation. As an answer to his question whether "the truth of a [grammatical] proposition is certain," (48) we must not think in terms of truth as correspondence, coherence, or verification. The notion of certainty does not require justification here, or better, it requires the acceptance that "justification comes to an end." (49) If a notion of truth might be related here to the notion of certainty, it is only a "minimalist" one. (50)

Put differently, what is presupposed in a form of life, a language-game, or a frame of reference is not evident in itself, and hence never justifies the behavior within this form of life, but is as "certain" or "uncertain" as the behavior determined by these presuppositions: "I have arrived at the rock bottom of my convictions. And one might almost say that these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house." (51) Consequently, frames of references can neither be justified nor validated; they can only be described by indicating the boundaries between what can be said and what can be shown.

These explicit rejections of metaphysical emphasis and of the possibility to justify our basic frames of reference are epitomized and clarified by the statement that "it is so difficult to find the beginning. Or better: it is difficult to begin at the beginning. And not to try to go further back." (52)

Wittgenstein's Reticence toward Historical Evolution. But where exactly is the beginning? Where exactly is the rock bottom of my convictions? Which framework features are exactly beyond question and beyond validation? Where and when is it impossible (or forbidden) to go further back? Intuitively, Wittgenstein's admission that there is an unmistakably historical evolution, a dynamic element in our frames of reference, seems to cast doubt on his self-assured prohibition not to go further. But his apparent allergy to specifying which aspects of our frame of reference are subject to historical evolution and which are not leaves us with the question whether there really is a rock bottom, and if so, what its foundations consist of.

Indeed, it is significant that Wittgenstein was never interested in an explicit inquiry into the historical alteration of frames of reference. Rather, he seemed interested in the particular purposes within different frames of reference, none of which he considered as mutual rivals, since the act of debating their presuppositions is logically impossible. (53) If he ever focuses upon their possible historical evolution, he resorts to the use of extended metaphors, as in his famous definition of the fluid differences between empirical and logical propositions: "The bank of that river consists partly of hard rock, subject to no alteration or only to an imperceptible one, partly of sand which now in one place now in another gets washed away or deposited." (54)

Obviously, Wittgenstein never draws a sharp distinction between the hard rock of the bed and the sand, between those aspects of our frame of reference that stand fast and those that are subject to alteration. The inevitability of a human world-picture or frame of reference is given along with the very idea of historical evolution within that worldview. Only those aspects of our frame of reference have been specified as stable and unalterable "which have a relevance to--or show the irrelevance of--certain traditional skeptical problems: concerning the existence of body, knowledge of other minds and the practice of induction." (55) They are "the commonplaces of the least refined thinking; and are yet the indispensable core of the conceptual equipment of the most sophisticated human beings." (56)

Collingwood's Attitude toward Metaphysics. Unlike Wittgenstein, Collingwood frankly defines the inquiry into the basic frames of references or, in his terminology, absolute presuppositions as metaphysics. As indicated, many scholars have objected to the use of this term and have highlighted the difference between Collingwood's philosophy and what is traditionally understood by metaphysics. Given the strong resemblance with Wittgenstein's approach, the question becomes even more poignant why Collingwood reserved the term "metaphysics" for that very project, all the more so since he does not see these absolute presuppositions as stable or unalterable, but precisely as historical and subject to alteration.

The Use of the Term "Metaphysics." In contrast to Wittgenstein's claim that "I know" does not tolerate metaphysical emphasis, Collingwood stresses the need of articulating our basic frames of reference as the metaphysician's main task. Everybody has a philosophy, but "only the philosopher makes it his business to probe into the mind and lay bare that recess in which the ultimate beliefs lie hidden." (57) Moreover, Collingwood makes use of a host of metaphors to underline the importance of articulation. Spread over his whole oeuvre, this very need is expressed by means of at least three different images: the contrast of implicit/explicit, (58) the light/darkness metaphor, (59) and the patristic motto credo ut intelligam. (60)

But this richness of metaphorical images does not provide us with air answer to the central question regarding Collingwood's use of the term "metaphysics." As an example of a history of ideas, as an accurate image of what MacIntyre once called "the rise and fall of ideas," the project might be highly commendable, but what is the gain of articulating absolute presuppositions in their historical evolution? What is the use of dragging one's basic convictions into the daylight? Are they in need of something outside themselves to fulfill their specific role? And above all, what would be the metaphysical significance of doing that? Does that need of articulation imply that the character of absolute presuppositions is not unfounded? And if so, what could be that foundation?

The Importance of the Historical Aspect. A possible answer might be that Collingwood tries to save the truth value of metaphysical inquiry. As indicated, Collingwood's claim in An Essay on Metaphysics is that the distinction between true and false is not applicable to absolute presuppositions or, more accurately phrased, that absolute presuppositions are not amenable to the logical positivists' definition of truth. Hence, the question whether absolute presuppositions are true or false is not a metaphysical but a pseudo-metaphysical question. However, absolute presuppositions are amenable to historical truth or falsehood in the sense that the metaphysician as a historian can give an accurate or inaccurate description of which absolute presuppositions were held in a definite period. Thus, the metaphysician's job of articulating which absolute presuppositions were held in which period is basically prone to the truth/falsity distinction. (61)

But, on reflection, that answer is equally unconvincing to justify the metaphysician's job as genuinely metaphysical. On the contrary, by defining metaphysics as the historical articulation of changing absolute presuppositions, Collingwood relativizes metaphysical truth to historical periods and places. In that perspective, historical relativism seems to be the only inevitable outcome. Stressing the need of articulating the different absolute presuppositions amounts to "tamely submitting metaphysics to historicist pressure." (62)


Collingwood's Answer. Why, then, does Collingwood call his project "metaphysics" and distinguish it from a "history of ideas"? In order to answer that question, it must be bifurcated into two more specific questions. First, how does the historical process come about in which one constellation of absolute presuppositions is replaced by another? Why do they change? What is the explanation of that change? Second, what status should be given to the historically changing constellations of absolute presuppositions? Are they in need of something outside themselves to fulfill their specific role, or do they operate in a logical vacuum? (63)

Unconscious Thought. In a famous footnote, Collingwood gives a rather cryptic answer to the first question:
   [A]bsolute presuppositions of any given society, at any given phase
   of its history, form a structure which is subject to 'strains' of
   greater or less intensity, which are 'taken up' in various ways,
   but never annihilated. If the strains are too great, the structure
   collapses and is replaced by another, which will be a modification
   of the old with the destructive strain removed; a modification not
   consciously devised but created by a process of unconscious
   thought. (64)

Does the use of inverted commas and of the expression "unconscious thought" reveal Collingwood's own uncertainty? At any rate, this footnote has been the subject of many controversial interpretations. On the one hand, the notion "unconscious thought" was interpreted along the lines of psychology and even Freudian psychoanalysis. (65) On the other, it was seen as illustrative for the weakness of his position. Since his own theory forbids him to justify in rational terms the replacement of one constellation of absolute presuppositions by another (if he did, absolute presuppositions would be indistinguishable from relative presuppositions), two possible ways out of the impasse remain: either to explain the transitions of presuppositions causally, or to divorce them from any kind of explanation. But Collingwood never took either of these options. Instead, he introduced the idea of "strains of greater or less intensity," analogous to the notion of "unconscious thought," a strategy seen by many interpreters as tantamount to evading the problem: "For this is the price he pays for keeping his 'absolute' presuppositions entirely independent and self-sufficient; and, once that step is taken, he landed in an historical relativism from which he cannot retreat." (66)

My claim is that these two interpretations are based on a misunderstanding of the notion "unconscious thought." In order to understand what Collingwood exactly meant by the term "unconscious thought," it has to be connected to what Collingwood in An Essay in Philosophical Method calls the Socratic principle. Following Socrates' lead, the philosopher or metaphysician does not try to discover something completely new; rather, he tries to describe and explain in a better way something he, one way or another, already knew:
   not to know it better in the sense of coming to know more about it,
   but to know it better in the sense of coming to know it in a
   different and better way--actually instead of potentially, or
   explicitly instead of implicitly, or in whatever terms the theory
   of knowledge chooses to express the difference. (67)

A Platonic Development of the Socratic Principle. My further claim is that in Collingwood's metaphysics the Socratic principle is operative on two levels. It is generally agreed that the Socratic principle functions as an epistemological principle. (68) From an epistemological perspective, the object of metaphysics is the evolution of absolute presuppositions on the level of human thought. What the metaphysician, like any human being, implicitly knows are the absolute presuppositions about the general nature of reality. The metaphysician's task is to make this "implicit knowledge" explicit through a logical analysis (which are the absolute presuppositions?) of the various ways (art, religion, psychology, cosmology, and so on) in which people in different eras have experienced reality: "In expounding these propositions I shall not be trying to convince the reader of anything new, but only to remind him of what he already knows perfectly well." (69) In the process of this historical analysis, the metaphysician discovers the strains of the various absolute presuppositions of these domains of experience. Exactly these strains function as the catalysts for the change and renewal of absolute presuppositions.

But the Socratic principle is operative on another level--mostly neglected by Collingwood scholars--as well. Apart from the overtly epistemological references to what has come to be known as Meno's paradox, (70) Collingwood refers to a passage in Plato's Republic in regard to the role of the Socratic principle on a metaphysical level. (71) There, Socrates distinguishes between the mathematical and the dialectical methods and stresses the different roles of hypotheses therein. The difference is stated by saying that in mathematics the mind "goes from hypotheses not to a principle but to a conclusion," whereas in dialectic it "goes from hypotheses to a non-hypothetical principle." (72) Collingwood regards this doctrine "as a Platonic development" (73) of the Socratic principle:
   In dialectic we not only draw the consequences of our hypotheses,
   but we recollect that they are only hypotheses; that is, we are
   free to 'cancel the hypothesis', or assume the opposite and see
   what follows from that. The purpose of this procedure is no doubt
   the same as that of Socrates' midwifery, to bring to light that
   knowledge which the mind already possesses concealed within it; and
   this is now defined as knowledge of a metaphysical first principle
   called the good. (74)

Based on this metaphysical interpretation of the Socratic principle, I try to reconstruct Collingwood's answer to the second question concerning the status of absolute presuppositions. Obviously, the Socratic principle operates not only on the epistemological level of ideas in the human mind, the level of hypotheses, but on the level of ideas beyond human mind as well, the level of a metaphysical first principle. Therefore, the metaphysician is assigned a twofold task. He has to bring to light the hypotheses or presuppositions and then see how this can lead to a vision of reality or to a metaphysical first principle. But in order to understand this double task of the metaphysician, it has to be related to the metaphysical doctrine of objective idealism, which Collingwood presented in the unpublished manuscript "Realism and Idealism."

Collingwood's Objective Idealism. This manuscript is known and mentioned by younger Collingwood scholars, but even those who accept the term "metaphysics" as a description of Collingwood's method continue to neglect the role of objective idealism in this respect and fail to articulate the difference between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's approaches. In the revised edition of An Autobiography, Connelly refers to Collingwood's objective idealism but deems unimportant his use of that term:
   Positively Collingwood sought to develop his own position,
   irrespective of label. In his lectures on realism and idealism in
   1935 he referred to his position as 'objective idealism',
   acknowledging affinities with the thought of Hegel and Whitehead.
   But his use of the term signifies little: in 1933 he noted that
   'the controversy between the two [realism and idealism] as theories
   of knowledge, [has] by now played out in a kind of stalemate.' (75)

In my view, An Autobiography, An Essay on Metaphysics, and the manuscript "Realism and Idealism" are to be read as complementary writings. It is not because philosophical problems are the product of changing presuppositions that they come and go at random. According to Collingwood, they are always the same problems, described differently according to historical context. The whole history of thinking is an ongoing attempt to answer eternal questions in which every new phase approaches the questions in a different way:
   In part, the problems of philosophy are unchanging; in part, they
   vary from age to age, according to the special characteristics of
   human life and thought at the time; and in the best philosophers of
   every age these two parts are so interwoven that the permanent
   problems appear sub specie saeculi and the special problems sub
   specie aetemitatis. (76)

As already mentioned, the meaning of propositions is traceable only in reference to the presuppositions to which they are meant as an answer. Hence, metaphysical statements never function as verifiable propositions which directly reflect reality, but exist at the level of the presuppositions underlying propositions. But does that imply that absolute presuppositions do not have a link with reality or being at all? As to this very question--the relation of absolute presuppositions and reality--we have to look at the level of ideas beyond the human mind. Although Collingwood knows (along with many others) that unqualified realism is untenable, it is plain to him that Kant's attempt to found the universality of human knowledge on transcendental subjectivity was doomed to failure as well. The question then arises whether eternal validity must be completely denied of philosophical study.

At first blush, the answer is likely to be affirmative. By acknowledging the historical setting of every philosophical reflection and the untenability of unqualified realism, the search for timeless truth must result in a deadlock. The answers of philosophers who pretend to give solutions to eternal philosophical problems are but apologetic attempts to perpetuate a particular language-game or social practice, which are themselves subject to historical change. (77) Collingwood, however, draws another conclusion from the same antirealist position and from the same sensitivity for the historical determination of philosophical problems. The most obvious support of this conclusion is to be found in "Realism and Idealism."

In that manuscript Collingwood elucidates what he means by the statement that "ideas do not only exist in people's heads" by reference to his metaphysical theory of "objective idealism." In particular, he defines objective idealism in relation to the double status of ideas:
   In saying that reality consists of ideas, it [objective idealism]
   is saying that there is a distinction between the ideas or
   principles exemplified in natural things and these things
   themselves; that the principles are not mere abstractions and
   processes.... Thus it conceives the world of nature as something
   derived from and dependent upon something logically prior to
   itself, a world of immaterial ideas; but this is not a mental world
   or a world of mental activities or of things depending on mental
   activity although it is an intelligible world or a world in which
   mind, when mind comes into existence, finds itself completely at
   home. (78)

Collingwood conspicuously uses exactly the same terminology in The Function of Metaphysics in Civilization. There he makes a comparison between his own metaphysical theory and its competitors, the classic realist and the Kantian subjective idealist theories of metaphysics:
   But [to think that all people share the same basic presuppositions]
   was possible only because no one had yet sufficiently studied the
   history of thought to have discovered that metaphysical
   presuppositions are variables. With that discovery it becomes
   impossible even for a moment to take seriously either a realistic
   metaphysics according to which metaphysical propositions state our
   empirical knowledge of the categorical characteristics of reality,
   or an idealistic or psychological metaphysics according to which
   these depend upon the way in which the human mind as such is always
   and everywhere constructed. We must start again at the beginning
   and construct a new metaphysical theory which will face the facts
   revealed by history. This work has never yet been done. (79)

Here, the relation between Collingwood's reformed metaphysics, classic metaphysics, and Kantian transcendental analytics is manifest. It should be clear that for Collingwood classic metaphysics as a description of the categorical characteristics of reality is impossible, because these categorical characteristics belong to a world of immaterial ideas which can never be described in an empirical way. It should be clear as well that metaphysics as a form of transcendental analytics is impossible because such a metaphysics does not face the facts revealed by history.

Unlike the Kantian position, Collingwood's reform of metaphysics implies the resolving of every philosophy of mind into history. Unlike the classic position, Collingwood's reform of metaphysics entails that the world of mind and nature is derived from and dependent upon something logically prior to itself, a world of immaterial ideas, which is not a mental world, "although it is an intelligible world in which mind, when mind comes into existence, finds itself completely at home." In other words, Collingwood's intention to resolve the philosophy of human mind into history is complementary to his conviction that the historical activities of the human mind are dependent on the world of immaterial ideas.

Within Collingwood's concept of objective idealism, ideas are not only abstractions of the human mind; they also form an immaterial world of a priori ideas or "abstract entities" that are the preconditions of the worlds of nature and mind. Put differently, Collingwood considers presuppositions of thought as temporary, human expressions or actualizations of these a priori ideas or abstract entities. By describing them and tracing their inner dynamics, the metaphysician can make further steps toward articulating a vision of reality.

Seen in the light of objective idealism, metaphysics not only focuses on the relation between abstract entities and their historically changing manifestations but also scrutinizes the internal strains and tensions between these historically evolving actualizations. Only by fulfilling this double task can the metaphysician live up to the double function of the Socratic principle which Collingwood defines as the leading principle of philosophical inquiry.

Back to the Truth/Falsity Distinction. So far, I have dwelt upon Collingwood's twofold use of the term "truth" in his later writings. Negatively, absolute presuppositions are not amenable to the logical positivists' definition of truth; positively, they are amenable only to historical truth in the sense that a metaphysician can give an accurate description of which absolute presuppositions were held in a definite period. But what about metaphysical truth?

In An Essay on Metaphysics, chapter 13, "The Propaganda of Irrationalism," Collingwood conspicuously highlights the importance of the search for truth for the whole of (European) civilization. A disappearance of the belief in the importance of truth would entail the end of everything that makes a civilization valuable. Civilization is dependent on the belief that truth is the ultimate aim and that therefore, systematic thinking, both in its theoretical and its practical form, should be treasured as extremely valuable. In the same vein, not only religion is seen as a worship of truth, in which God is Truth itself and the worshipper a seeker after truth, (80) but philosophy as well has to cope with the problem of establishing standards for distinguishing truth from falsity. (81)

Collingwood heavily objects to the threatening loss of this belief. When the belief in truth is discredited, then religious (82) and philosophical issues (83) are reduced to "intuitive, emotional" matters, immune from any form of critique. The waning of this belief in truth would be devastating:
   If European civilization is a civilization based on the belief that
   truth is the most precious thing in the world and that pursuing it
   is the whole duty of man, an irrationalist epidemic if it ran
   through Europe unchecked would in a relatively short time destroy
   everything that goes by the name of European civilization. (84)

At the same time, in An Essay on Metaphysics he states that the "reformed" metaphysician must be modest in relation to the quest for truth. Not only does he know that truth is not found at the empirical, verifiable level, nor at that of conceptual analysis. Historical experience has taught him as well that human thought can never attain eternal truth. What, then, can so-called reformed metaphysics, as the study of changing absolute presuppositions, say about truth? In different manuscripts, he relates the concept of truth to the concept of an a priori idea. What does he mean by that?

In "Realism and Idealism," Collingwood clarifies the meaning of the term "a priori idea" within the context of what he calls objective idealism. As already stated, objective idealism implies "that there is a distinction between the ideas or principles exemplified in natural things and these things themselves ...; it conceives the world of nature as something derived from and dependent upon something logically prior to itself, a world of immaterial ideas." (85) Not only are a priori ideas products of the human mind (the Kantian position); they also form an immaterial world, which is the necessary condition for all perceptible reality and for all forms of human experience. Such a description seems to imply an identification of objective idealism with a rigorous (Platonic) logical realism. (86)

In Method and Metaphysics, (87) Collingwood specifies the status of these immaterial or a priori ideas. Collingwood there distinguishes three sorts of reality: "abstract entities," "minds," and "bodies." Abstract entities (his term for immaterial ideas) are in themselves pure potentialities, which precede material reality and human thinking, but which can be made actual only in both of them. Apart from bodies and minds, they remain pure potentialities. (88)

Drawing upon these manuscripts, we can now clarify the term "truth" in its metaphysical sense. It must be clear that the terms "being" and "truth" are interrelated. The metaphysician's starting point is that "truth," coterminous with "being," is an a priori idea or abstract identity. Such a view of truth has a double implication: first, "truth" transcends all of its historical expressions. Second, the a priori idea of "truth" does not exist by itself, but all historical expressions realize certain potentialities which inhere in them. That a priori idea of "truth" is synonymous with what Collingwood calls the metaphysical first principle.

As a historical researcher, the metaphysician investigates how the a priori idea of the abstract entity called "truth" reveals itself in human thought. That revelation itself is always time bound. By tracing the changing absolute presuppositions through logical/historical analysis of the various temporal forms of thinking, the metaphysician verifies how the a priori idea of "truth" manifests itself in different historical and cultural settings. As such, metaphysics is not only a historical/descriptive study of ideas about being, prevalent in a certain period of time and in a certain place, but also a logical/historical analysis of how being appears in a certain era. Therefore, Collingwood can call his historical study of presuppositions "metaphysical." Pure being cannot be studied independently of human thinking. That was Collingwood's objection to the realists. Being can be studied only by scrutinizing the historical evolution of human thinking. Obviously, such a study demands confidence in human rationality and in the data obtained by systematic and orderly thought. Tracing the absolute presuppositions of that orderly thinking is the metaphysician's only option to look for being and truth.

Undoubtedly, such a study will yield only fragmented knowledge; human thought is historically determined and every metaphysician is a child of his own time. Only from that limited point of view can he speak truth. But acknowledging the historical determination of human thought does not contradict or undermine the belief in truth. On the contrary, investigating the evolution of historical thinking is the only way to gauge "metaphysical truth":
   Objective idealism ... holds that this distinction between sheer
   knowledge and sheer error, as two compartments into which our
   supposed or pretended knowledge can be sorted out, is a vicious
   over-simplification; and that in fact any example of so-called
   knowledge is partly truth and partly falsehood. But this does not
   mean that it is a compound, in which there is a certain amount of
   truth and a certain amount of falsehood juxtaposed, like a mixture
   of sugar and sand. The fact is rather that, whatever we know, we
   know it in a more or less confused way; we never actually, in any
   of our thoughts, attain that complete or final clarity and
   distinctness that would entitle them to be called absolutely true,
   and the confusion on the other hand is never so complete as to
   justify describing the thought as an absolute unmitigated error.
   This view implies that the element of error in our thought is the
   same thing as the element of confusion; and since there cannot be a
   confusion unless there is something there to be confused, there can
   be no such thing as pure error or pure illusion, and consequently
   the problem of error, meaning by that the problem "what is pure
   error?" does not arise. (89)

I recapitulate: the tension between a yearning for metaphysical truth and the awareness of historicity in Collingwood's thought, related to the Socratic principle, can be elucidated only by following his own advice: if you want to understand the meaning of a (philosophical) text, try to reconstruct its context and determine to what question it was meant as an answer. Before 1936, Collingwood's attention was directed to the level of being. His aim was to answer the question what can be understood by the abstract entity being and how it manifests itself in human thought. Answering that question is tantamount to constructing a metaphysical theory, specifically the theory of objective idealism.

After 1936, due to Ayer's attack on the possibility of metaphysics, Collingwood directed his attention to the level of thought. He no longer worked at elaborating a metaphysical theory but confined his attention to another question: what is the way we know reality or being? Answering that question is tantamount to the identification of metaphysics with the historical study of changing absolute presuppositions. What at a first glance seems to be a flat renunciation of his earlier view can be explained if these two different questions are taken into account.

If my interpretation has some plausibility, then for Collingwood there is still room for the project of metaphysics after the demise of classic metaphysics, and even after the fragmentation of transcendental subjectivity. By studying the historical process of changing absolute presuppositions, the metaphysician at once underlines the temporal character of every metaphysical construct and emphasizes that the mystery of being remains a mystery. But it is the metaphysician's task to understand to the best of his ability the emotion of wonder. (90)


Conclusion: Vienna and Oxford. Wittgenstein and Collingwood did not feel at home in the professional academic world of (neopositivist) analytic philosophy. They were both very sensitive to the mysterious character of reality and convinced of the contextuality of all thought and speech about reality. But the situations in which each developed his philosophy were completely different. That difference in background might help us to explain the difference between Collingwood's and Wittgenstein's approaches as well.

In Wittgenstein's Vienna, Janik and Toulmin claim that Wittgenstein had never forgotten the debacle of 1918, the deterioration of the old double monarchy, when the whole network or frame of reference in which he had grown up was tom to pieces. (91) That debacle convinced him of the unfounded character of our frames of reference and of the inability of our cognitive apparatus to answer the important questions of life. Between the secret depth of reality and human language and thought, there remained a yawning gap. Even if he changed his ideas on the relation of language and reality in a later period, the underlying philosophical task he had charged himself with--supervising the boundaries of language--remained unaltered. And the reason why it was important to keep this boundary line respected remained the same: in order to guard clear thought and right feeling against the imposition of needless constraints in areas where they genuinely matter. (92)

Precisely this background made Wittgenstein a lone wolf in the interbellum Oxbridge environment:
   Between Vienna in the years before 1919 and the Cambridge of
   1946-47, there were too many barriers of time, of history and of
   culture. Intellectuals and artists in Britain ... have been spared
   the absolute alienation out of which the intransigent and
   uncompromising integrity of a Kraus or a Wittgenstein is born. (93)

Collingwood was a lone wolf in the interwar Oxbridge environment as well. But facing the threat of a World War and fearing the end of European civilization, he reacted differently. "How is [Collingwood's] metaphysics able to reinforce the absolute presuppositions of a liberal culture buckling under threat if their logical efficacy is independent of their being true, dependent only on their being presupposed?" (94) The answer to this pertinent question is: by reading An Essay on Metaphysics and "Realism and Idealism" as two sides of the same coin. Although his metaphysical theory of objective idealism is largely absent in Aw Autobiography and Aw Essay on Metaphysics, it remains present in other writings of the same period. The most outspoken example of his objective idealism is found in his 1940 lecture on moral philosophy, "What 'Civilization' Means." There Collingwood highlights the role of a third-order ideal in the construction of a civilized society:
   This, which may be called the third-order ideal, is logically the
   source of all other ideals of civilized conduct. Not that it was
   reached before them: on the contrary, civility began, no doubt, at
   home; but on reflection it becomes evident that being civil to
   certain kinds of person, on certain kinds of occasion, and under
   certain kinds of provocation, is only a special case or (Spinoza
   would say) a 'mode' of being civil; and that the particular ideals
   of civility which are realized, or recognized without being
   realized by this or that particular society, logically presuppose
   the ideal of civility as such. (95)

This very application of the theory of objective idealism in the fields of moral and political philosophy testifies not only to the fact that Collingwood had not lapsed into a form of historicist relativism by 1940, but also to the fact that he remained convinced that the metaphysical search for the ideals of civility, justice, and truth was the only way out of the threatening situation European culture was then facing. Especially in these circumstances, Collingwood felt the necessity of emphasizing and articulating our deepest convictions.

Therefore, Collingwood did not share Wittgenstein's expectation that only a delimitation of our cognitive apparatus would lead in itself to an openness for the domain of the "metaphysical." In Wittgenstein's Vienna before 1918, the double-faced city, it might have been the only way out. In Collingwood's Oxford of the late 1930s, it must have sounded like an abdication.

University of Antwerp

(1) Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973), 288.

(2) Bernard Williams, The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy, ed. Myles Burnyeat (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006), 357.

(3) Collingwood mentions Wittgenstein's name at An Autobiography (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), 71. One oral reference is mentioned by M. O'C. Drury in Recollections of Wittgenstein, ed. Rush Rhees (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 141: "G.E. Moore was retiring from the professorship of philosophy at Cambridge. Wittgenstein was debating whether he would apply for the chair. WITTGENSTEIN: I would never be elected. I am now only a 'has-been'. Nobody wants a 'has-been'. One of the electors is Collingwood of Oxford. Can you imagine him voting for me?"

(4) Stephen Toulmin, "Introduction," in R. G. Collingwood, An Autobiography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), x; Janik and Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna, 202-03. Moreover, there is a striking similarity in the reception of their work as well. Regarding the evolution of their philosophical ideas, a distinction between so-called first and second periods has often been made, a distinction that was rejected by others. Furthermore, the period in which this transition would have taken place is situated somewhere in the 1930s. And in both cases, the (for the greatest part unpublished) manuscripts must provide a decisive answer concerning this issue.

(5) With regard to Wittgenstein, my analysis is especially based on Wittgenstein's Lectures 1932-1935, ed. A. Ambrose (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979) and On Certainty, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969). That Collingwood nowhere refers to Wittgenstein is partly due to the fact that Wittgenstein left Cambridge for a certain period and that his later writings were published after Collingwood's death.

(6) J. A. Martin, Jr., "Collingwood and Wittgenstein on the Task of Philosophy," Philosophy Today (1981): 12-23.

(7) See A. R. White, Methods of Metaphysics (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 139--40; W. H. Walsh, "Collingwood and Metaphysical Neutralism," in Critical Essays on the Philosophy of R. G. Collingwood, ed. Michael Krausz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 149; Rex Martin, Historical Explanation: Re-enactment and Practical Inference (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977), 203-14; Rex Martin, "Editor's Introduction," in An Essay on Metaphysics, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), xv-xcv; Peter Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties (London: Methuen, 1985), 26; G. McFee, "How to be an Idealist (II)," Idealistic Studies 15 (1985): 41-53; Peter Johnson, R. G. Collingivood: An Introduction (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1998), 61-78; Stephen Leach, The Foundations of History: Collingwood's Analysis of Historical Explanation (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2009), 55-56, 59-60; Wendy James, "A Fieldworker's Philosopher: Perspectives from Anthropology?" in R. G. Collingwood, The Philosophy of Enchantment: Studies in Folktale, Cultural Criticism, and Anthropology, ed. David Boucher, Wendy James, and Philip Smallwood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), lxvi n. 29; Raymun Festin, "Collingwood and Wittgenstein on Magic," Collingwood and British Idealism Studies 15, no. 1 (2009): 41-70.

(8) Stephen Toulmin, "Conceptual Change and the Problem of Relativity," in Critical Essays on the Philosophy of R. G. Collingwood, ed. Michael Krausz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 208; White, Methods of Metaphysics, 141; Ramchandra Ghandi, "Whitehead on the Distrust of Speculative Philosophy," International Philosophical Quarterly 12 (1972): 398-99; Walsh, "Collingwood and Metaphysical Neutralism," 149; Nathan Rotenstreich, "Metaphysics and Historicism," in Critical Essays on the Philosophy of R. G. Collingwood, 181; Tariq Modood, "The Later Collingwood's Alleged Historicism and Relativism," Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (1989): 117.

(9) Leach, The Foundations of History, 79; James Connelly, "Collingwood Controversies," in R. G. Collingwood: An Autobiography and Other Writings, ed. David Boucher and Theresa Smith (Oxford: University Press, 2013), 424.

(10) Wittgenstein's Lectures 1932-1935, ed. A. Ambrose (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979), 70.

(11) Collingwood, An Autobiography, 66-67.

(12) Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty (hereafter, OC), ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969), 58.

(13) OC, 59.

(14) Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (London: Penguin, 1990), 278-80; Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: Conversations Recorded by Friedrich Waisman, ed. B. F. McGuinness (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979), 47-63; P. M. S. Hacker, Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 50-59.

(15) Hacker, Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy, 93.

(16) Collingwood, An Autobiography, 22.

(17) Ibid., 52.

(18) A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), 45-61; A. J. Ayer, "Demonstration of the Impossibility of Metaphysics," Mind 43 (1934): 335-45.

(19) R. G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (hereafter, EM), rev. ed., ed. Rex Martin (1940; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 163.

(20) Rex Martin, "From Method to Metaphysics," in R. G. Collingwood: An Autobiography and Other Writings, 360; Johnson, R. G. Collingwood: An Introduction, 72-73.

(21) EM, 32.

(22) Collingwood, An Autobiography, 65-66.

(23) OC, 56.

(24) OC, 341.

(25) OC, 319-20.

(26) OC, 36.

(27) Martin, Historical Explanation, 203-11; Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism, 17-18.

(28) OC, 415.

(29) OC, 253.

(30) OC, 411.

(31) OC, 136.

(32) OC, 83.

(33) OC, 162.

(34) OC, 211.

(35) OC, 105.

(36) EM, 32.

(37) OC, 35-36.

(38) OC, 94; compare OC, 205.

(39) OC, 317.

(40) OC, 298.

(41) R. G. Collingwood, Function of Metaphysics in Civilization (1938), 48; reprinted in EM, 413.

(42) OC, 96; see OC, 97.

(43) Janik and Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna, 288.

(44) Compare Ignace Verhack, "Wittgenstein's Deictic Metaphysics: An Uncommon Reading of the Tractatus," International Philosophical Quarterly, 18 (1978): 433-44.

(45) Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism, 23.

(46) Henry Le Roy Finch, Wittgenstein--The Later Philosophy (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1977), 222, cited in Martin, "Collingwood and Wittgenstein on the Task of Philosophy," 22.

(47) OC, 482.

(48) OC, 193.

(49) OC, 192.

(50) See Frederick Stoutland, "Wittgenstein: On Certainty and Truth," Philosophical Investigations 21 (1998): 209-18.

(51) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and R. Rhees, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 248, compare 144, 152.

(52) OC, 471.

(53) Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 128-29.

(54) OC, 99.

(55) Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism, 27.

(56) Peter Strawson, Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (London: Methuen, 1959), 10.

(57) R. G. Collingwood, "Ruskin's Philosophy," in Essays in the Philosophy of Art by R. G. Collingwood, ed. Alan Donagan (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; 1964), 11.

(58) R. G. Collingwood, Speculum Mentis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 108 n.

(59) Collingwood, "Ruskin's Philosophy," 29; Speculum Mentis, 270; An Autobiography, 167; EM, 43.

(60) See R. G. Collingwood, "Reason is Faith Cultivating Itself," in Faith and Reason: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion by R. G. Collingwood, ed. Lionel Rubinoff (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1968), 108-21; R. G. Collingwood, "Faith and Reason," in Faith and Reason, 122-47.

(61) Collingwood, Function of Metaphysics in Civilization, 45 (EM, 408 09).

(62) Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism, 26-27; see also Bernard Williams, "An Essay on Collingwood," in The Sense of the Past, 357-58.

(63) Johnson, R. G. Collingwood: An Introduction, 75-77; Toulmin, "Conceptual Change and the Problem of Relativity," 209-12.

(64) EM, 48 n.

(65) T. M. Knox, "Editor's Preface," in R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946), xiv; Alan Donagan, The Later Philosophy of R. G. Collingwood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), 271.

(66) Toulmin, "Conceptual Change and the Problem of Relativity," 212; see also Johnson, R. G. Collingwood: An Introduction, 77.

(67) R. G. Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method, rev. ed., ed. James Connelly and Giuseppina D'Oro (1933; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 11.

(68) Giuseppina D'Oro, Collingwood and the Metaphysics of Experience (New York: Routledge, 2002), 10-12, 29; James Connelly and Giuseppina D'Oro, "Editors' Introduction," in An Essay on Philosophical Method, xxx; Michael Beaney, "Collingwood's Critique of Oxbridge Realism," in R. G. Collingwood: An Autobiography and Other Writings, 247-48.

(69) EM, 23.

(70) Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method, 11, 105, 161

(71) Republic 509d--51 lb; 533c. Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method, 12-14. I differ in this respect from Beaney's interpretation: "Like the historicist principle, the Socratic principle lies at the heart of Collingwood's critique of realism. Indeed, the two principles are related: the Socratic principle might be seen as the epistemological correlate of the metaphysical, historicist principle." Beaney, "Collingwood's Critique of Oxbridge Realism," 248.

(72) Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method, 13.

(73) Ibid., 12.

(74) Ibid., 14 (italics mine).

(75) James Connelly, "Collingwood Controversies," in R. G. Collingwood: An Autobiography and Other Writings, 424.

(76) R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, rev. ed., ed. W. J. van der Dussen (1946; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 231-32.

(77) See Williams, "An Essay on Collingwood," 358. For more information on this topic, see E. F. Bertoldi, "Collingwood and Eternal Philosophical Problems," Dialogue 24 (1985): 387-97; E. E. Harris, "Collingwood on Eternal Problems," The Philosophical Quarterly 1 (1951): 228-41.

(78) R. G. Collingwood, "Realism and Idealism: Central Problems in Metaphysics" (1935), unpublished manuscript, 104.

(79) Collingwood, Function of Metaphysics in Civilization, 51-52.

(80) EM, 133.

(81) Ibid.

(82) EM, 137.

(83) AM, 138.

(84) EM, 140.

(85) Collingwood, "Realism and Idealism," 104.

(86) For Collingwood's view on the relation between (logical) realism and nominalism, see "The Correspondence between R. G. Collingwood and Gilbert Ryle," in Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method, 292.

(87) This manuscript is the sequel in which he explicitly applied to metaphysics the philosophical method he had worked out in An Essay on Philosophical Method.

(88) Collingwood emphasizes both in this manuscript and in The Idea of Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945) the relation between the abstract entities and what Whitehead calls "eternal objects."

(89) Collingwood, "Realism and Idealism," 110, 116; see also An Essay on Philosophical Method, 106.

(90) I have elaborated this interpretation in Guido Vanheeswijck, "Collingwood's 'Reformed Metaphysics' and the Radical Conversion Hypothesis," Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (2014): 577-600.

(91) Janik and Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna, 242.

(92) Ibid., 257.

(93) Ibid., 202-03.

(94) Johnson, R. G. Collingwood: An Introduction, 132.

(95) R. G. Collingwood, "What Civilization Means" (1940), 21; reprinted in The New Leviathan, rev. ed., ed. David Boucher (1946; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 494.

Correspondence to: Guido Vanheeswijck, University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.
COPYRIGHT 2015 Philosophy Education Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Ludwig Wittgenstein
Author:Vanheeswijck, Guido
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Date:Dec 1, 2015
Previous Article:The necessity and limits of Kant's transcendental logic, with reference to Nietzsche and Hegel.
Next Article:Speculari aude: the platonic path of metaphysics in Dieter Henrich.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |