An autobiography by Robin George Collingwood

By Robin George Collingwood

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When Plato described thinking as a 'dialogue of the soul with itself', he meant (as we know from his own dialogues) that it was a process of question and answer, and that of these two elements the primacy belongs to the questioning activity, the Socrates within us. When Kant said that it takes a wise man to know what questions he can reasonably ask, he was in effect repudiating a merely propositional logic and demanding a logic of question and answer. Even apart from this, however, logic has never been able to assert a de facto one-one relation between propositions and indicative sentences.

The publisher was right on both + I points. Not only were the times unpropitious, but&* I was still a beginner in the art of writing books. I had only published one. It was called Religion and Philosophy, and was published in 1916. I t had been written some years earlier, in order to tidy up and put behind me anumber of thoughts arising out of my juvenile studies in theology; and I published it because, at a time when a young man's expectation of life was a rapidly dwindling asset, I wished at any rate to leave one philosophical publication behind me, and hated (as I still hate) leaving a decision of that kind to executors.

For the ' realists' ' chief, and in the last resort, it seemed to me, only method was to analyse the position criticized into various propositions, and detect contradictions between these. Following as they did the rules of propositional logic, it never occurred to them that those contradictions might be the fruit of their own historical errors as to the questions which their victims had been trying to answer. There was also a chance that they might not be; but, after what I already knew about the 'realists" attitude towards history, the odds seemed to me against it.

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