History and hermeneutics : the philosophy of R.G. Collingwood and its theological application
This is a study of the philosopher Robin George Collingwood. It proceeds along three
avenues. First contrary to the received interpretation which sees Collingwood's later work.
exemplified by the essay on Metaphysics, as accepting complete historical rclatiyism. I argue
that the Metaphysics is better understood within the contcxt ofhcImcneutics. and how careful
consideration of his henncneutics of history can havc helpful and Illuminating theological
applications. Both 'absolute presuppositions' and the controversial notion of 'unconscious
thought' function as a critique of subjectiyism.
The second avenue investigates the status of the doctrine of re-enactment. In common
with recent research I argue that the doctrine is best understood as a transcendental condition
of history. Collingwood is, therefore, clarif)ing the conditions for an understanding of the
past, rather than providing the historian \\1th a method. I argue that re-enactmcnt is a
'grammatical' investigation into the nature of the historical object and 1 support this argument
by a detailed account of the linguistic nature of Collingwood's philosophy. Following the
school of anal~1ical philosophy of history, I argue that re-enactment is a thesis about
historical explanation as opposed to explanation by general law s.
An argument against the limitation of re-enactment to the bounds of historical
explanation fonns the third avenue of research. While the doctrine is certainly an e:xample of
historical explanation. there is too much evidence pointing to its henneneutical dimension to
leave the issue there. 1 argue that Collingwood anticipates man~ of the themes common to the
henneneutics of Hans-Georg Gadarner. and I attempt to systematize these using Gadarner as
Finally. in a concluding chapter. I draw all these arguments together \\1thin a
theological context I show that re-