Collingwood's Idea of History & Speculum Mentis

PERLOU

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Mille mercis pour ces informations passionnantes que vous avez partagées Laura et grâce au traducteur, j'ai pu avoir connaissance...

Many thanks for this exciting information that you shared with Laura and thanks to the translator, I was able to get to know...

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
 

nature

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I finished IoH, and I nearly understood nothing :( . Just the "thinking about thinking"

I 've just begun Speculum mentis early this morning, I'm only at the end of the prologue, it's more clear. I hope I'll progress. I haven't yet read the comments from important threads here since my last participation here. So many things to read :lkj:
 

Joe

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
luc said:
With regard to Collingwood's view on truth/relativism, here is an excerpt from Speculum Mentis (about pos. 4035 on kindle) that sums up his quite sophisticated thinking (blue how I understood him):

Speculum Mentis said:
All these assertions of something other than the absolute mind itself are versions of a single error: the error of abstraction, of failing to realize that subject and object, condition and conditioned, ground and consequence, particular and universal, can only be distinctions which fall within one and the same whole, and that this whole can only be the infinite fact which is the absolute mind. A fact which has anything outside it is not the concrete fact. If that which falls outside it is its own law or nature, we have fallen into the abstraction which tears apart the individual into particular and universal; if another fact, we have torn apart the individual into two individuals unrelated and therefore both fictitious.

{What he's saying here is that there can't be two separate worlds: one of principles and one of facts. But even if we just think of two facts as separate, this is an abstraction and hence not real, because everything is connected. Two facts can be distinct, i.e. distinguishable, but never separate.}

Our inquiry has not only abolished the notion of a map of knowledge distinct from knowledge itself: it has also abolished the notion of an external world other than the mind. It has not, of course, abolished the distinction between subject and object; on the contrary, it has established our right to use that distinction by showing its necessity in the life of thought. It is no more abolished than are the distinctions between truth and error, good and evil, particular and universal; these distinctions are only abolished by the coincidentia oppositorum which is the suicide of abstract thought, and conserved by the synthesis of opposites which is the life of concrete thought.

{In other words, our thought can't help but make distinctions between such things, subject and object, good and evil etc.; but these things are not separate, it's all part of the mind. We need these distinctions to progress in our thought in a dialectical manner: the life of concrete thought, the process of holding two opposites in mind and coming to a conclusion.}

Just as we began by assuming a map of knowledge, so we began by assuming an external world, a world of which we could say with the realists that it really is what, errors apart, we think it to be: a world of which we could even say that it was what it was quite irrespective of any ignorance or error of our own about it. Our position at the start was wholly realistic, and there is a sense in which it is realistic to the end. But we did not—and this is where realists tend to go wrong—assume that ‘errors apart’ is a clause which need not be taken seriously. We did not assume that any one form of experience could be accepted as already, in its main lines, wholly free from error. Led by this principle, we found that the real world was implied, but not asserted, in art; asserted, but not thought out, in religion; thought out, but only subject to fictitious assumptions, in science; and therefore in all these we found an ostensible object—the work of art, God, the material universe—which was confessedly a figment and not the real object. The real object is the mind itself, as we now know.

But in abolishing the notion of an external world other than the mind we do not assert any of the silly nonsense usually described by unintelligent critics as idealism. We do not assert that the trees and hills and people of our world are ‘unreal’, or ‘mere ideas in my mind’, still less that matter is nothing but a swarm of mind-particles. The very essence of trees and hills and people is that they should be not myself but my objects in perception; they are not subjective but objective, not states of myself but facts that I know. None the less, my knowing them is organic to them: it is because they are what they are that I can know them, because I know them that they can be what to me they really are. They and I alike are members of one whole, a whole which the destruction of one part would in a sense destroy thioughout, as the death of our dearest friend darkens for us the very light of the sun.

[...]

The world of abstract concepts—the material world—is an objective world called into existence indeed by an error of the mind, but by that very error asserted as real. Hence to make the abstraction and to regard the reality of its object as self-evident are one and the same thing, and these farcical refutations of idealism are only successful as showing, what nobody doubts, that it is as possible to put your blind eye to a microscope as to a telescope.

Now the construction of such an abstract world is not a pointless or purposeless waste of energy on the part of the mind. To suppose that this is so, that religion is only a fiction and science only an arbitrary play of abstractions, is the error of those critics, whether of religion or science, who unintelligently praise one by umntelligently condemning the other. In the toil of art, the agony of religion, and the relentless labour of science, actual truth is being won and the mind is coming to its own true stature. This is simply because the ostensible object whose apparent articulations are being so patiently traced is not the real object, and because every new touch given to the determination of the former does not obscure, but rather illustrates, the latter.

{This recognizes that the various forms of consciousness like religion and science have merit. Even in their error they illuminate the real object, which is mind. So, truth can be gained from those, as long as we keep their shortcomings in mind and see them from a higher perspective, so to speak.}

So it seems to me Collingwood doesn't assume that truth, historical or otherwise, is relative, but that the discovery of truth is a very complex journey, a journey of the mind discovering itself. This means we need to operate on the highest level possible to us on our current position in that journey, and that we need to watch out carefully not to fall into the various simplifications/errors that can trap us and make us think we can avoid the grind and hard work that is the journey towards self-discovery. Or so I understand it.

I haven't read SM yet, but to me the above sounds a lot like 'we are all one', which doesn't seem to jive with the idea that we are meant to assign meaning, value, to distinguish 'left from right'. Sure, that idea of the "absolute mind" may be true in an absolute way, but we are not there, and people who 'go there' miss the fact that we are meant to choose, and that act of choosing requires us to differentiate as if things were different (even if ultimately they are not). Like I said, I haven't read the book, but from this excerpt SM sounds a bit new agey.
 

goyacobol

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Joe said:
luc said:
With regard to Collingwood's view on truth/relativism, here is an excerpt from Speculum Mentis (about pos. 4035 on kindle) that sums up his quite sophisticated thinking (blue how I understood him):

Speculum Mentis said:
All these assertions of something other than the absolute mind itself are versions of a single error: the error of abstraction, of failing to realize that subject and object, condition and conditioned, ground and consequence, particular and universal, can only be distinctions which fall within one and the same whole, and that this whole can only be the infinite fact which is the absolute mind. A fact which has anything outside it is not the concrete fact. If that which falls outside it is its own law or nature, we have fallen into the abstraction which tears apart the individual into particular and universal; if another fact, we have torn apart the individual into two individuals unrelated and therefore both fictitious.

{What he's saying here is that there can't be two separate worlds: one of principles and one of facts. But even if we just think of two facts as separate, this is an abstraction and hence not real, because everything is connected. Two facts can be distinct, i.e. distinguishable, but never separate.}

Our inquiry has not only abolished the notion of a map of knowledge distinct from knowledge itself: it has also abolished the notion of an external world other than the mind. It has not, of course, abolished the distinction between subject and object; on the contrary, it has established our right to use that distinction by showing its necessity in the life of thought. It is no more abolished than are the distinctions between truth and error, good and evil, particular and universal; these distinctions are only abolished by the coincidentia oppositorum which is the suicide of abstract thought, and conserved by the synthesis of opposites which is the life of concrete thought.

{In other words, our thought can't help but make distinctions between such things, subject and object, good and evil etc.; but these things are not separate, it's all part of the mind. We need these distinctions to progress in our thought in a dialectical manner: the life of concrete thought, the process of holding two opposites in mind and coming to a conclusion.}

Just as we began by assuming a map of knowledge, so we began by assuming an external world, a world of which we could say with the realists that it really is what, errors apart, we think it to be: a world of which we could even say that it was what it was quite irrespective of any ignorance or error of our own about it. Our position at the start was wholly realistic, and there is a sense in which it is realistic to the end. But we did not—and this is where realists tend to go wrong—assume that ‘errors apart’ is a clause which need not be taken seriously. We did not assume that any one form of experience could be accepted as already, in its main lines, wholly free from error. Led by this principle, we found that the real world was implied, but not asserted, in art; asserted, but not thought out, in religion; thought out, but only subject to fictitious assumptions, in science; and therefore in all these we found an ostensible object—the work of art, God, the material universe—which was confessedly a figment and not the real object. The real object is the mind itself, as we now know.

But in abolishing the notion of an external world other than the mind we do not assert any of the silly nonsense usually described by unintelligent critics as idealism. We do not assert that the trees and hills and people of our world are ‘unreal’, or ‘mere ideas in my mind’, still less that matter is nothing but a swarm of mind-particles. The very essence of trees and hills and people is that they should be not myself but my objects in perception; they are not subjective but objective, not states of myself but facts that I know. None the less, my knowing them is organic to them: it is because they are what they are that I can know them, because I know them that they can be what to me they really are. They and I alike are members of one whole, a whole which the destruction of one part would in a sense destroy thioughout, as the death of our dearest friend darkens for us the very light of the sun.

[...]

The world of abstract concepts—the material world—is an objective world called into existence indeed by an error of the mind, but by that very error asserted as real. Hence to make the abstraction and to regard the reality of its object as self-evident are one and the same thing, and these farcical refutations of idealism are only successful as showing, what nobody doubts, that it is as possible to put your blind eye to a microscope as to a telescope.

Now the construction of such an abstract world is not a pointless or purposeless waste of energy on the part of the mind. To suppose that this is so, that religion is only a fiction and science only an arbitrary play of abstractions, is the error of those critics, whether of religion or science, who unintelligently praise one by umntelligently condemning the other. In the toil of art, the agony of religion, and the relentless labour of science, actual truth is being won and the mind is coming to its own true stature. This is simply because the ostensible object whose apparent articulations are being so patiently traced is not the real object, and because every new touch given to the determination of the former does not obscure, but rather illustrates, the latter.

{This recognizes that the various forms of consciousness like religion and science have merit. Even in their error they illuminate the real object, which is mind. So, truth can be gained from those, as long as we keep their shortcomings in mind and see them from a higher perspective, so to speak.}

So it seems to me Collingwood doesn't assume that truth, historical or otherwise, is relative, but that the discovery of truth is a very complex journey, a journey of the mind discovering itself. This means we need to operate on the highest level possible to us on our current position in that journey, and that we need to watch out carefully not to fall into the various simplifications/errors that can trap us and make us think we can avoid the grind and hard work that is the journey towards self-discovery. Or so I understand it.

I haven't read SM yet, but to me the above sounds a lot like 'we are all one', which doesn't seem to jive with the idea that we are meant to assign meaning, value, to distinguish 'left from right'. Sure, that idea of the "absolute mind" may be true in an absolute way, but we are not there, and people who 'go there' miss the fact that we are meant to choose, and that act of choosing requires us to differentiate as if things were different (even if ultimately they are not). Like I said, I haven't read the book, but from this excerpt SM sounds a bit new agey.

I haven't read SM yet either but I don't think the above [highlighted in maroon] is saying we should not differentiate and make choices. I think all the brain exercise of reading these books may help us to bring our personal individual hemispheres closer together. Whether that reduces the wars between us remains to be seen I guess.

Session 9 October 1994
Q: (L) What did Isis searching for her lord Osiris symbolize?
A: Separation of female energy from male energy union.
Q: (L) Does this have anything to do with brain activity?
A: Yes. The separating of the hemispheres of the brain.
Q: (L) Was this achieved through DNA modification?
A: Yes.

Q: (L) What did the son of Isis, Horus, represent?
A: New reality of limitation.
Q: (L) What is the meaning of Horus avenging himself upon Set, the murderer of his father, Osiris?
A: Beginning of perpetual conflict energy to limit humanity.
Q: (L) Who did Set represent?
A: War.
Q: (L) What war?
A: All.
 

3DStudent

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Really interesting quotes, thanks Laura! I had read this one a few days ago and took some notes. But I still need to read the excerpt from the Stoicism and Paul thread.

Laura said:
Suppose, for example, that the English alphabet were locked deterministically and irreversibly into a single sequence, so that b always has to follow a, c always has to follow b, d always has to follow c, and so on. This would be an ordered entity but one with very low informational content. As long as it remains impossible to break down such rigidity, the communication of written information would be impossible.

Reminds me that we supposedly fell from a higher state. And we separated to learn that we may be built back up. Like the alphabet analogy, we're reconstructing ourselves into more orderly configurations.


Laura said:
They have failed to entertain the possibility that even if the universe as a whole is headed toward death by entropy, in the meantime something momentous may nonetheless be working itself out narratively here and now.

Or like Jordan Peterson says, "Everything you do matters."


Laura said:
Adopting such a posture of hope, of course, is a thoroughly religious challenge, but it is not one that contradicts science, especially if we think of the cosmos in informational terms.

And the Universe knows what it's doing.

Laura said:
If the universe is in any way something like an information system, it too would allow its content to manifest itself between the two extremes. Any information processed by the universe could easily be eclipsed by excessive chaos or deadened by too much order.

I guess that's why the Wave is approaching: for us - too much chaos.


I think this resolves the mental conundrum I had had about STO and STS and balance and imbalance. Reading my post again, I think it may have just been a matter of double negatives in terms, thinking too much about it, or bad math. I visualize it as a horizontal line and there is a mark in the center representing perfect balance between STS and STO. But I see now that order and chaos can both become imbalanced. And you need a certain amount of each of noise and redundancy to balance each other. Here's the post:

3D Student said:
I have a hard time conceptualizing or mathematically realizing the STS and STO balance issue. I'm not sure if I can explain it. But balance is balance, 50/50. You can have too much balance, but then that is not balance anymore. And you can have too much imbalance, but that is still imbalance.. Balance itself calls for 50/50, right? And Imbalance can go either way, more towards STS or more toward STO. I think the C's hinted that because Earth is so STS polarized, that somewhere else in the Universe, there is a more balanced planet. I think I get confused because I think of it like: in a region of the Universe, is the balance (STO) balanced, and is the imbalance (STS) imbalanced? Or is there and imbalance in the balance (STO), or a balance in the imbalance (STS). If anyone knows what I'm trying to conceptualize, please explain it better. :lol: :P
 

goyacobol

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
3D Student,

3D Student said:
I have a hard time conceptualizing or mathematically realizing the STS and STO balance issue. I'm not sure if I can explain it. But balance is balance, 50/50. You can have too much balance, but then that is not balance anymore. And you can have too much imbalance, but that is still imbalance.. Balance itself calls for 50/50, right? And Imbalance can go either way, more towards STS or more toward STO. I think the C's hinted that because Earth is so STS polarized, that somewhere else in the Universe, there is a more balanced planet. I think I get confused because I think of it like: in a region of the Universe, is the balance (STO) balanced, and is the imbalance (STS) imbalanced? Or is there and imbalance in the balance (STO), or a balance in the imbalance (STS). If anyone knows what I'm trying to conceptualize, please explain it better. :lol: :P

I think I know what you mean (sort of)... :/
 

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gnosisxsophia

Jedi Council Member
Hi 3D Student,

Have just started reading SM myself and the balancing of mind message takes some thinking about doesn't it?

3D Student said:
I think this resolves the mental conundrum I had had about STO and STS and balance and imbalance. Reading my post again, I think it may have just been a matter of double negatives in terms, thinking too much about it, or bad math. I visualize it as a horizontal line and there is a mark in the center representing perfect balance between STS and STO. But I see now that order and chaos can both become imbalanced. And you need a certain amount of each of noise and redundancy to balance each other.

Personally I find myself retreating to symbols to ruminate on, the Vesica Piscis being profound in this case imo.





Discrete biases such as STS vs STO, Intuition vs Rationalisation etc. populating the outer spheres while within the lens a balanced 'blending of noise and redundancy' occurs perhaps analogous to creation or understanding.

Which is perhaps similiar to Joes excellent comment earlier -

Joe said:
In other words, our thought can't help but make distinctions between such things, subject and object, good and evil etc.; but these things are not separate, it's all part of the mind. We need these distinctions to progress in our thought in a dialectical manner: the life of concrete thought, the process of holding two opposites in mind and coming to a conclusion.


Laura's references superb in identifying the value of discretionary sensory analysis also -

Laura said:
...the mind is not only the mirror of nature, but human language is a mirror of totally non-physical relations of ideas that already fully exist in the mind.

The notion of semantic information is extensible to cover the idea of a cosmic, unembodied consciousness, which carries and transmits the informational code for the construction of this and any possible universe.


Relevant also to the mirror vs reflection import upon a Mosaic Consciousness I suspect?


Laura said:
It should not surprise us, therefore, that any universe that carries a meaning would permit its content to meander adventurously between the two extremes of deadly design and unintelligible chaos.


Cheers

J
 

Maat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Joe said:
luc said:
With regard to Collingwood's view on truth/relativism, here is an excerpt from Speculum Mentis (about pos. 4035 on kindle) that sums up his quite sophisticated thinking (blue how I understood him):

Speculum Mentis said:
All these assertions of something other than the absolute mind itself are versions of a single error: the error of abstraction, of failing to realize that subject and object, condition and conditioned, ground and consequence, particular and universal, can only be distinctions which fall within one and the same whole, and that this whole can only be the infinite fact which is the absolute mind. A fact which has anything outside it is not the concrete fact. If that which falls outside it is its own law or nature, we have fallen into the abstraction which tears apart the individual into particular and universal; if another fact, we have torn apart the individual into two individuals unrelated and therefore both fictitious.

{What he's saying here is that there can't be two separate worlds: one of principles and one of facts. But even if we just think of two facts as separate, this is an abstraction and hence not real, because everything is connected. Two facts can be distinct, i.e. distinguishable, but never separate.}

Our inquiry has not only abolished the notion of a map of knowledge distinct from knowledge itself: it has also abolished the notion of an external world other than the mind. It has not, of course, abolished the distinction between subject and object; on the contrary, it has established our right to use that distinction by showing its necessity in the life of thought. It is no more abolished than are the distinctions between truth and error, good and evil, particular and universal; these distinctions are only abolished by the coincidentia oppositorum which is the suicide of abstract thought, and conserved by the synthesis of opposites which is the life of concrete thought.

{In other words, our thought can't help but make distinctions between such things, subject and object, good and evil etc.; but these things are not separate, it's all part of the mind. We need these distinctions to progress in our thought in a dialectical manner: the life of concrete thought, the process of holding two opposites in mind and coming to a conclusion.}

Just as we began by assuming a map of knowledge, so we began by assuming an external world, a world of which we could say with the realists that it really is what, errors apart, we think it to be: a world of which we could even say that it was what it was quite irrespective of any ignorance or error of our own about it. Our position at the start was wholly realistic, and there is a sense in which it is realistic to the end. But we did not—and this is where realists tend to go wrong—assume that ‘errors apart’ is a clause which need not be taken seriously. We did not assume that any one form of experience could be accepted as already, in its main lines, wholly free from error. Led by this principle, we found that the real world was implied, but not asserted, in art; asserted, but not thought out, in religion; thought out, but only subject to fictitious assumptions, in science; and therefore in all these we found an ostensible object—the work of art, God, the material universe—which was confessedly a figment and not the real object. The real object is the mind itself, as we now know.

But in abolishing the notion of an external world other than the mind we do not assert any of the silly nonsense usually described by unintelligent critics as idealism. We do not assert that the trees and hills and people of our world are ‘unreal’, or ‘mere ideas in my mind’, still less that matter is nothing but a swarm of mind-particles. The very essence of trees and hills and people is that they should be not myself but my objects in perception; they are not subjective but objective, not states of myself but facts that I know. None the less, my knowing them is organic to them: it is because they are what they are that I can know them, because I know them that they can be what to me they really are. They and I alike are members of one whole, a whole which the destruction of one part would in a sense destroy thioughout, as the death of our dearest friend darkens for us the very light of the sun.

[...]

The world of abstract concepts—the material world—is an objective world called into existence indeed by an error of the mind, but by that very error asserted as real. Hence to make the abstraction and to regard the reality of its object as self-evident are one and the same thing, and these farcical refutations of idealism are only successful as showing, what nobody doubts, that it is as possible to put your blind eye to a microscope as to a telescope.

Now the construction of such an abstract world is not a pointless or purposeless waste of energy on the part of the mind. To suppose that this is so, that religion is only a fiction and science only an arbitrary play of abstractions, is the error of those critics, whether of religion or science, who unintelligently praise one by umntelligently condemning the other. In the toil of art, the agony of religion, and the relentless labour of science, actual truth is being won and the mind is coming to its own true stature. This is simply because the ostensible object whose apparent articulations are being so patiently traced is not the real object, and because every new touch given to the determination of the former does not obscure, but rather illustrates, the latter.

{This recognizes that the various forms of consciousness like religion and science have merit. Even in their error they illuminate the real object, which is mind. So, truth can be gained from those, as long as we keep their shortcomings in mind and see them from a higher perspective, so to speak.}

So it seems to me Collingwood doesn't assume that truth, historical or otherwise, is relative, but that the discovery of truth is a very complex journey, a journey of the mind discovering itself. This means we need to operate on the highest level possible to us on our current position in that journey, and that we need to watch out carefully not to fall into the various simplifications/errors that can trap us and make us think we can avoid the grind and hard work that is the journey towards self-discovery. Or so I understand it.

I haven't read SM yet, but to me the above sounds a lot like 'we are all one', which doesn't seem to jive with the idea that we are meant to assign meaning, value, to distinguish 'left from right'. Sure, that idea of the "absolute mind" may be true in an absolute way, but we are not there, and people who 'go there' miss the fact that we are meant to choose, and that act of choosing requires us to differentiate as if things were different (even if ultimately they are not). Like I said, I haven't read the book, but from this excerpt SM sounds a bit new agey.

While reading Collingwood's Autobiography (in french), I stumble upon that and thought it could be worth to mention it. Here'is what Collingwood said about his book Speculum mentis :

It is a bad book in many ways. The position laid down in it was incomppletely thought out and unskilfully expressed; and for most readers concealed, rather than illustrated, by a dense incrustation of miscellaneous detail. I should entirely sympathize with a reviewer who had said he could make neither head nor tail it, or had described it as nonsense. But any one who has been intelligent enough to see what I was trying to say would have realized, have he not been grossly ignorant, that it was neither "usual" nor "idealistic".

And then, in a note, he adds :

Since writing that sentence, I have read Speculum Mentis for the first time since it was published, and find it much better than I remembered. It is a record, not so very obscure in expression, of a good deal of genuine thinking. If much of it now fails to satisfy me, that is because I have gone on thinking since I wrote it, and therefore much of it needs to be supplemented and qualified. There is not a big deal that needs to be retracted.
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Thanks for those added quotes, Maat. I really love it when some of you take hold of a subject and really dig into it! It enriches all of us!
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
While reading the Carr lectures, I found these quotes in his second lecture:

It defies all the evidence, to suggest that history
can be written on the basis of 'explanations in terms of human intentions" or of accounts of
their motives given by the actors themselves, of why 'in their own estimation, they acted
as they did'. The facts of history are indeed facts about individuals, but not about actions
of individuals performed in isolation, and not about the motives, real or imaginary, from
which individuals suppose themselves to have acted. They are facts about the relations of
individuals to one another in society and about the social forces which produce from the
actions of individuals results often at variance with, and sometimes opposite to, the results
which they themselves intended.

One of the serious errors of Collingwood's view of history which I discussed in my low [?]
lecture was to assume that the thought behind the act, which the historian was called on to
investigate, was the thought of the individual actor. This is a false assumption. What the
historian is called on to investigate is what lies behind the act; and to this the conscious
thought or motive of the individual actor may be quite irrelevant.

[...]

History, then, in both senses of the word - meaning both the inquiry conducted by the
historian and the facts of the past into which he inquires - is a social process, in which
individuals are engaged as social beings; and the imaginary antithesis between society and
the individual is no more than a red herring drawn across our path to confuse our thinking.
The reciprocal process of interaction between the historian and his facts, what I have
called the dialogue between present and past, is a dialogue not between abstract and
isolated individuals, but between the society of today and the society of yesterday.
History, in Burckhardt's words, is 'the record of what one age finds worthy of note in
another'.' The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present; and we can fully
understand the present only in the light of the past. To enable man to understand the
society of the past, and to increase his mastery over the society of the present, is the dual
function of history.

I'm not quite certain whether Collingwood's summarized position is adequately rendered here as I do not recall him having expressed it in these precise terms without giving it further qualifications or amends.
 

Approaching Infinity

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Palinurus said:
While reading the Carr lectures, I found these quotes in his second lecture:

It defies all the evidence, to suggest that history
can be written on the basis of 'explanations in terms of human intentions" or of accounts of
their motives given by the actors themselves, of why 'in their own estimation, they acted
as they did'. The facts of history are indeed facts about individuals, but not about actions
of individuals performed in isolation, and not about the motives, real or imaginary, from
which individuals suppose themselves to have acted. They are facts about the relations of
individuals to one another in society and about the social forces which produce from the
actions of individuals results often at variance with, and sometimes opposite to, the results
which they themselves intended.

One of the serious errors of Collingwood's view of history which I discussed in my low [?]
lecture was to assume that the thought behind the act, which the historian was called on to
investigate, was the thought of the individual actor. This is a false assumption. What the
historian is called on to investigate is what lies behind the act; and to this the conscious
thought or motive of the individual actor may be quite irrelevant.

[...]

History, then, in both senses of the word - meaning both the inquiry conducted by the
historian and the facts of the past into which he inquires - is a social process, in which
individuals are engaged as social beings; and the imaginary antithesis between society and
the individual is no more than a red herring drawn across our path to confuse our thinking.
The reciprocal process of interaction between the historian and his facts, what I have
called the dialogue between present and past, is a dialogue not between abstract and
isolated individuals, but between the society of today and the society of yesterday.
History, in Burckhardt's words, is 'the record of what one age finds worthy of note in
another'.' The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present; and we can fully
understand the present only in the light of the past. To enable man to understand the
society of the past, and to increase his mastery over the society of the present, is the dual
function of history.

I'm not quite certain whether Collingwood's summarized position is adequately rendered here as I do not recall him having expressed it in these precise terms without giving it further qualifications or amends.

I think the quote above just shows how stupid the sociology is. On the one hand he calls the "antithesis between society and the individual" imaginary, yet discounts the individual and only accepts the societal. The individual gets consumed in the societal. And note that word I bolded. Even if motives are REAL, they are irrelevant. That is just nonsense. Of course results can turn out other than what people intend. You'd have to be an idiot not to know that. But Collingwood is clear that that is one reason why history is so important: to judge if policies are effective or not. In essence, to analyze the thinking behind a decision, then judge that thinking on the merits of how things turned out. Sociologists take the effect for the cause, and create a fictitious abstraction ("social forces") to explain causality which is really just individuals thinking and acting.
 

Phill4

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I think he is pretty off there, he seems to be looking for the easy explanation to the whole of history in what "it looks like" society as a whole rather than the total sum of influences over a particular individual amounting to a historical fact.

Society is the accumulation of cultural memory and consciousness, didn't Collingwood speak of generalizations? How science was trying to make history fit in generalizations from the positivist (natural science) view? It is on the positivism chapter 4 I think.

It comes across as a total dismissal of what Collingwood had been elaborating throughout the book.

Sociology is only concerned with looking at the outside of societies , but completely ignoring the internal processes, thoughts motivations and will of the people writing the history they are studying , is like talking about chemistry while intentionally ignoring the atoms and charges. ahh?
Sociology limits itself on the boundaries of natural science to not have to deal with the nature of human thought.


I agree with AI, the duality of social and individual is a misplaced concept in historical analysis. some big historical events are carried out by a person and others as a social development , the two views (internal: thoughts and motivations of people and external: from the historical facts) as series of actions result on other series of actions are mutually inclusive.

Here is one of the quotes that came to mind:
Idea of History Page 175
Bergson’s evolutionism The essentially constructive character of Bergson’s mind is revealed by the fact that his first book emphasizes the positive side of the double theme which I have described as characteristic of modern French thought. The Essai sur les Données immédiates de la Conscience (translated into English in 1913 under the title Time and Free Will) is an exposition of the characteristics of our own mental life as present in actual experience. This life is a succession of mental states, but it is a succession in a very special sense of the word. One state does not follow another, for one does not cease to exist when the next begins; they interpenetrate one another, the past living on in the present, fused with it, and present in the sense that it confers upon it a peculiar quality derived from the fact of the fusion. For example, in listening to a tune we do not experience the different notes separately: the way in which we hear each note, the state of mind which is the hearing of that note, is affected by the way in which we heard the last and, indeed, all the previous ones. The total experience of hearing the tune is thus a progressive and irreversible series of experiences which telescope into one another; it is therefore not many experiences, but one experience, organized in a peculiar way. The way in which it is organized is time, and this in fact is just what time is: it is a manifold of parts which, unlike those of space, interpenetrate one another, the present including the past. This temporal organization is peculiar to consciousness, and is the foundation of freedom: for, because the present contains the past in itself the present is not determined by the past as something external to it, a cause of which it is the effect: the present is a free and living activity which embraces and sustains its own past by its own act. So far Bergson’s analysis of consciousness affords a valuable contribution to the theory of history, although he does not use it in that way.
 

Palinurus

The Living Force
Thank you both for your reactions which helped considerably to clear things up for me, and with which I quite agree. :cool2:
 

Approaching Infinity

Administrator
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Laura said:
As I have mentioned elsewhere, my recent reading has included "Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics", eds. Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen. (Cambridge University Press 2010). The entire book is interesting, but there are just a few chapters that stand out in terms of recent discussions and comments from Cs. I've already posted one chapter in the "Stoicism and Paul: Making a Cosmology, Anthropology-Ethics for Today" thread HERE. Those of you who have read that chapter (whole thread) will realize the close interweaving of the Collingwood material with the Stoic Paul material, and how both seem to point to Information as the fundament of the Cosmos/Universe. I think that understanding this is very important in respect of how we think, live, and interact with others and our environment. And for those who have been reading Collingwood, a lot of things will begin to make more sense.

In this thread, I am going to post two chapters of the book that I think more directly explicate Collingwood though certainly they could also be in the Paul thread, but I think the weight falls here. In a sense, this is where Collingwood was trying to go I think. Posting the important chapters will save many from having to buy and read the entire book though certainly, if you are able, it's not a bad idea!

Some comments on Keith Ward’s chapter, “God as the ultimate informational principle”. I think he gets a few things close but wrong, but overall, he makes some really good points. His main point is solid: God or Cosmic Mind is the consciousness that holds all possibilities, and actualizes the “best” one(s) on the evaluative principle of “goodness”. The universe is “pulled” towards creating values, and embodying the highest value. There is thus purpose in the universe, and the smallest, simplest bits of stuff must be seen in terms of the end goal, as “preconditions” of the complex whole. Basically, simple particles cannot explain or predict higher complexity, but should be understood as the base which makes the complex possible. The ideal potential future “pulls” the simple, chaotic past “into shape”, into order. Those new levels of order come “with new principles, not deductively derivable from nor reducible to those of their simpler physical constituents.”

Higher levels of organization (information) result in new principles not apparent in the lower levels. Where do they come from? It doesn’t make sense to think that such principles are somehow encoded in electrons, protons and neutrons, and magically “emerge” out of nothing as things get more complex. There must be a higher reality in which these potentials are somehow “contained”, but not yet made manifest at a low level of organization.

These facts have led some scientists to speak of holistic explanation - explanation of elementary parts in terms of a greater whole - as an appropriate form of scientific explanation. Some, especially quantum physicists, extend the idea of holistic explanation to the whole universe, considered as a total physical system.

What “unifies” the total physical system? There must be a higher level of being which “contains” such a system. Sheldrake tried to answer that in regard to smaller systems, but just pushed the question back. What exactly IS a “morphic field”? Ultimately, the best answer is: it’s mind.

This bit reminded me of Collingwood’s “concrete thinking”, linking together all “facts” in a nexus of causes and effects. No fact can be separate from all other facts.

Recent hypotheses in quantum physics suggest that the whole physical universe is “entangled" in such a way that the parts of a system - even the behavior of elementary particles - cannot be fully understood without seeing their role within a greater whole: ultimately the whole of space-time.

What is the “principle of evaluation” that selects one universe over another? The best analogy is a mind. Scale that up and we get the idea of a cosmic mind. Its “goals” will determine what shape the particular universe takes: physical laws that allow for the stability of “matter”, the creation of solar systems, the creation of ecosystems, the functioning of genes, the survivability of organisms, etc.

Ward likes Plato’s “World of Forms”, but points out the problem: how can such an asbtract world influence and interact with the world of facts? (Sheldrake’s theory has the same problem, IMO.) Augustine had the best answer: the World of Forms is the Mind of God. Just as our minds conceive of purposes and can actualize them through our physical actions, God’s mind holds ultimate purposes and actualizes them through the “body” of the universe, which is made up of beings, i.e. us (but not just us).

That is why the “information" carried by DNA molecules is not information in the semantic sense. The code does provide a program for constructing an organism, but no person has constructed it and no consciousness needs to understand and apply the program. It has originated by ordinary evolutionary processes, and, like a computer program, it operates without the need for conscious interpretation.

Ward’s Darwinian bias doesn’t do him any favors. Computer programs need to be programmed by intelligence. My one criticism of the authors of this book is their total lack of knowledge about the problems inherent in Darwinist thought.

Good bit here:

Taken together, these considerations suggest the idea of a primordial consciousness that is ontologically prior to all physical realities, that contains the “coded" information for constructing any possible universe, and that can apprehend and appreciate any physical universe that exists. It would certainly be a strong reason for creating a universe that might contain finite consciousnesses that could share in appreciating, and even in creating, some of the distinctive values potential in the basic structure of the universe: for such a creation would increase the total amount and the kinds of value in existence.

…Only intelligent consciousness can have a reason for bringing about some state, and that reason would precisely be the actualization and appreciation of some as yet merely possible value.

That’s where humans fit in. It’s up to us to actualize the as yet “merely possible” value. We do it through knowledge acquisition and practice - I>X>S.

Ward is closer than he thinks here:

Consciousness and intelligent agency is generated by the central nervous system and the brain of Homo sapiens - and of course there may be further developments in knowledge and power yet to come, in other forms of organism, whether naturally or artificially produced. Rather as DNA may be seen as an informational code for constructing organisms, so the basic laws of physics - the laws of the interaction of complex as well as simple physical systems - can be seen as informational codes for developing societies of conscious intelligent agents out of simpler physical elements.

Scale it up a level: 4D bodies. Paul’s “body of spirit”. A “social memory complex”.

But then we have to see such conscious intelligence as a primary causal factor in the generation and nature of those simple physical elements. To adapt John Wheeler's suggestion a little, the simple originating phenomena of the universe may not even exist unless they are conceived, evaluated, and intentionally actualized by consciousness.

True in principle, I think. But David Ray Griffin developed this idea more fully: both cosmic mind (consciousness) and pure (physical) chaos are equally irreducible. To avoid a “Big Bang”, “creation-out-of-nothing” scenario, it makes more sense that the simplest state of matter was chaotic, lacking stable behaviors and features that persisted over time, as they do now. What we think of as the basic features of matter (particles’ stable characteristics) are habits developed over time, “calibrated” into a stable state that forms the physical substratum of all specified “matter”. As Whitehead put it, physical laws are the habits of nature. Those habits are “conceived, evaluated, and intentionally actualized” by consciousness.

Ward shows his awareness of the problem later on when he writes: “Consciousness needs material objects with which to operate.” So Cosmic Mind might be necessarily “prior” to all physical entities, but only to all “specified” physical entities, i.e., entities that contain some degree of information (like mass, charge, etc.). A cosmic mind would still need a basic information substrate with which to operate, something to “shape” - primal matter of a sort.

It has been objected that a consciousness cannot exist without some form of material embodiment, but this objection seems to rest simply upon a failure of human imagination. It is true that all consciousness requires an object; we are always conscious of something. But there may be many sorts of objects of consciousness. Human consciousnesses are fully and properly embodied, and their objects are normally physical, or at least sensory. But we can imagine, and even to some extent experience, consciousness of non-physical objects such as mathematical realities and unactualized logical possibilities. The cosmic consciousness being envisaged here would have the set of all possible universes as its object, and so it could not be part of any such universe (it may take embodied form in some universes, and Christians hold that it does, but it would also have to transcend any such form in order that those universes could exist in the first place).

I think Ward had a failure of imagination here. Panentheism solves this problem: the world exists “within” Cosmic Mind, in relation to it as a human body is in relation to its own mind. It is both transcendent and immanent.

In that respect, and unsurprisingly, cosmic consciousness is quite unlike any embodied consciousness. It is a primary ontological reality, in fact the one and only primary ontological reality, from which all universes are generated. This consciousness is the conceiver of all possible states and the actualizer of some, for the sake of values that are to be consciously apprehended and appreciated. This is the supreme informational principle for constructing universes.

I wouldn’t say it’s “quite unlike” embodied consciousness. Probably more like than unlike. (And Ward assumes he knows what embodied consciousness is “like”.)

A reason for the existence of evil:

All possibly actualizable coherent universes might be such that it would not be possible to eliminate all evils from them. But some would have higher degrees of value than others, or perhaps different kinds of incommensurable values worth having. So there would be an internal reason for the selection of some such states for existence.

This is compounded by the problem of free will. The more degrees of freedom beings have, the more capacity they have to choose “bad options”.

Another good bit:

I have suggested, following Augustine, that mind or consciousness is somehow involved in such an ultimate explanation, because it is mind that stores possibilities non-physically, and mind that can act for a reason. This is just to say that mind is a fundamental constituent of ultimate reality, and is necessarily prior to all physical entities. For they are actualizations of possibilities apprehended by cosmic mind, the only actuality that is not capable of being brought into being or of not existing or of being other than it is, as it is a condition of the existence of all possibilities whatsoever. Cosmic consciousness is the condition of any and all possibilities existing (which they necessarily do), and not merely a very complex thing that just happens to exist.

Another slight problem:

It is clear that any such “Platonic" view cannot accept that information is necessarily materially embodied, as the primary informational source, God, is not material. But it may still be the case that human consciousness is materially embodied, and that it is not simply something quite different in kind from material objects, as it lies in an emergent continuum with material entities that have no consciousness.

Panpsychism solves this problem (also called panexperientialism in the Whitehead/David Ray Griffin variety). Simple physical entities may not have consciousness per se (on the level of humans), but they have a sense of experience that is basically analogous: they receive, process, output of information. Ward almost gets there a bit later on:

Humans nevertheless stand in a continuum that begins from the much simpler capacity of physical objects to respond to stimuli from an environment of other objects. The registration of the stimulus, the largely automatic response, and the form of interaction with other objects, are elementary forms of what becomes, in humans, conscious apprehension, creative response, and personal relationships with other persons.

Because this continuum exists, we can use the term “information" to apply at various stages. Even the simplest physical object “registers information" from its environment, “interprets" it, and acts on the basis of it - but of course none of these simple capacities involves consciousness or awareness. There is nothing there that is truly creative, and there is no development, as there is with human persons, of a unique historical trajectory, no sense of an inward spiritual journey or a novel and unpredictable history.

There’s an unexamined hole in that “largely” that doesn’t justify the “of course” after it. The best philosophical answer to this is that there is no such thing as a “pure” stimulus-response. There is always a degree of experience, no matter how simple the being. Again, Whitehead got closer, IMO.

Lastly, a good manifesto for doing philosophy:

But such a sense of apprehension of transcendent goodness needs to be supported by a general view of reality that is coherent and plausible, and within which an idea of transcendent goodness has a central place. Precisely because our views of reality must be informed by scientific knowledge, theologians must engage with science in formulating metaphysical theories that, however tentative, show religious commitment to be reasonable and intellectually appealing.
 

luc

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Joe said:
I haven't read SM yet, but to me the above sounds a lot like 'we are all one', which doesn't seem to jive with the idea that we are meant to assign meaning, value, to distinguish 'left from right'. Sure, that idea of the "absolute mind" may be true in an absolute way, but we are not there, and people who 'go there' miss the fact that we are meant to choose, and that act of choosing requires us to differentiate as if things were different (even if ultimately they are not). Like I said, I haven't read the book, but from this excerpt SM sounds a bit new agey.

I can see how you would come to that conclusion, but I think if you read the book, you will see that Collingwood is way above falling into this "we are all one" trap. It's more that he realizes this is where it leads to ultimately, but that the devil is in the details, big time! Notice for example that he says things need to be seen as "distinct" as opposed to "separate", so it's not that he assumes a fuzzy "whole", but rather that he sees things as distinct yet connected - this is a criticism of the "scientific mindset" that builds highly abstract theories based on inductive logic, which are then assumed to be real and absolute, which creates complete opposites, absolute concepts and such, which then are played against each other in endless philosophical battles and nitpicking etc. An abstract fantasy world, as it were. Instead, he recommends looking at the facts, the details, which are all connected. That makes such an approach extremely hard! Or so I understand him. (But it's been a while now that I read the book, so my memories might be a bit blurry.)
 
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