Category Archives: absolute presuppositions

That metaphysics is the historical science of absolute presuppositions is worked by Collingwood in An Essay on Metaphysics (1940); it is a development of the logic of question and answer

NL IV: “Feeling”

Index to this series

Contents of this article:

  • The Fallacy of Misplaced Argument. Do not argue about what is immediately given to consciousness
  • Feeling and Thought. An analysis of feeling is not immediately given to consciousness
  • Summary of the chapter, as analyzed into nine parts

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  • NL II: “The Relation Between Body and Mind”

    Index to this series

    I continue making notes on The New Leviathan of R. G. Collingwood (1889–1943). Now my main concern is with the second chapter, “The Relation Between Body and Mind”; but I shall range widely, as I did for the first chapter.

    Preliminaries

    Some writers begin with an outline, which they proceed to fill out with words. At least, they do this if they do what they are taught in school, according to Robert Pirsig:

    He showed how the aspect of Quality called unity, the hanging-togetherness of a story, could be improved with a technique called an outline. The authority of an argument could be jacked up with a technique called footnotes, which gives authoritative reference. Outlines and footnotes are standard things taught in all freshman composition classes, but now as devices for improving Quality they had a purpose.

    That is from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, chapter 17.

    Does anybody strictly follow the textbook method of writing? Continue reading

    NL I: “Body and Mind”

    Index to this series. See also a later, shorter article on this chapter

    The Chapter in Isolation

    “Body and Mind” is the opening chapter of Collingwood’s New Leviathan. The chapter is a fine work of rhetoric that could stand on its own, though it invites further reading. In these respects it resembles the first of the ten traditional books of Plato’s Republic, or even the first of the thirteen books of Euclid’s Elements. The analogy with Euclid becomes a bit tighter when we consider that each chapter of The New Leviathan is divided into short paragraphs, which are numbered sequentially for ease of reference.

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    The Tradition of Western Philosophy

    Note added October 16, 2018: Here I compare two projects of re-examining the philosophical tradition of the title. The projects are those of

    • R. G. Collingwood in An Essay on Philosophical Method (Oxford, 1933);
    • Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan at St John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, beginning in 1937.

    I review

    • how I ended up as a student at St John’s;
    • how Collingwood has been read (or not read) by myself and others, notably Simon Blackburn;
    • how Collingwood’s Essay is based on the hypothesis of the “overlap of classes.”

    I say that Collingwood writes well. This is corroborated, in a sense, in the Introduction to the 2005 edition of the Essay by James Connelly and Giuseppina D’Oro. These editors say of Collingwood’s critics M. C. D’Arcy and C. J. Ducasse,

    both agreed that Collingwood’s language was imprecise, sometimes vague, and insufficiently analytical. This criticism was later echoed by A. J. Ayer in his Philosophy in the Twentieth Century where he remarked that ‘An Essay on Philosophical Method is a contribution to belles-lettres rather than philosophy. The style is uniformly elegant, the matter mostly obscure.’

    At the end I quote three elegant paragraphs from Collingwood, which begin:

    Assumption for assumption, which are we to prefer? That in sixty generations of continuous thought philosophers have been exerting themselves wholly in vain, and have waited for the first word of good sense until we came on the scene? Or that this labour has been on the whole profitable, and its history the history of an effort neither contemptible nor unrewarded?

    We prefer the second assumption; and in this we may seem to follow Daniel McCarthy in “Modernism & Conservatism” (The American Conservative, September 25, 2012), an essay recently promoted on Twitter (which is why I return now to this post). The freedom embraced by modernism may drive one to conservatism, as it did T. S. Eliot. McCarthy quotes Donald Livingston:

    The true philosopher recognizes that philosophical reflection consistently purged of the authority of the pre-reflective leads to total skepticism. In this moment of despair, hubristic reason … becomes impotent and utterly silent. It is only then that the philosopher can recognize, for the first time, the authority of that radiant world of pre-reflective common life in which he has his being and which had always been a guide prior to the philosophic act.

    McCarthy comments on this,

    Once reason has disestablished everything, including its own authority, what remains? The ground beneath your feet, the social order of which you are a part—things predicated not on any theory but on their immediacy. This is the profound conservatism to be realized from modernism.

    Perhaps one may find this conservatism in some students and faculty at St John’s College; it is not inevitable, and Collingwood hasn’t got it, for all his admiration for Eliot.


    A recent theme of this blog has been juxtapositions, especially of paintings, as in the articles “Pairing of paintings” and “More pairings” (both from July, 2013).

    In this article I juxtapose two texts, from the 1930s. Both of them decry current intellectual troubles. Both find a solution in a return to the intellectual tradition. Continue reading