Re-enactment and Understanding

Dray William H.

in History as Re-Enactment

Published in print March 1999 | ISBN: 9780198238812
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679780 | DOI:
Re-enactment and Understanding

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This chapter examines some things which R. G. Collingwood had to say about what he saw as paradigmatic cases of re-enactment: cases in which the past actions of particular individuals are understood in terms of what the person concerned thought about his situation. Collingwood's chief claims in such cases are analysed and sometimes rephrased in language which he does not himself use but which will be more familiar to many readers. The first task is to set out in a little detail what Collingwood means when he insists that historical understanding requires a re-enactment of past experience or a re-thinking of past thought. As noted already, commentators have differed about the importance of this idea for his whole theory of historical inquiry. But there have also been disagreements about the viability, and even the coherence, of the idea itself.

Keywords: history; R. G. Collingwood; philosophy; re-enactment; historical understanding; knowledge

Chapter.  14605 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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