Wednesday, 15 June 2016
The Idea of History,
R. G. Collingwood, Oxford University Press, 1994, page 247
R. G. Collingwood, a historical philosopher or perhaps a philosopher of history, talked about the mechanism of constructing a past based on reading back the present.
Every present has a past of its own, and any imaginative reconstruction of the past aims at reconstructing the past of this present, the present in which the act of imagination is going on, as here and now perceived.
Since there as many perceived presents as there are people to perceive them, this implies that there are also many versions of the past, each one built with the evidence of the person or persons constructing them. The task then, for a historian, is to negotiate between the available pasts to find the consensus. This will not necessarily produce truth, but simply reduce the level of argument and disagreement. Collingwood concludes that this ...
... only shows that herein history is like art, science, philosophy, the pursuit of virtue, and the search for happiness.