An autobiography by Robin George Collingwood

By Robin George Collingwood

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And I described 'realism' in consequence as 'the undischarged bankrupt of modern philosophy'. That description might have seemed less just some years later, when the 'realist' school could point to such assets as Alexander's Space Time and Deity and Whitehead's Process and Reality. But even those great works illustrate my point. Each of them is a system of Naturphilosophie as the term was understood by the post-Kantians. Alexander's philosophy of nature is even more closely modelled on the Critique of Pure Reason than was Hegel's; in many important ways it is very much like what that 'Metaphysics of Nature' would presumably have been which Kant promised but never wrote.

It seemed to me that truth, if that meant the kind of thing which I was accustomed to pursue in my ordinary work as a philosopher or historian-truth in the sense in which a philosophical theory or an historical narrative is called true, which seemed to me the proper sense of the word-was something that belonged not to any single proposition, nor even, as the coherence-theorists maintained, to a complex of propositions taken together; but to a complex consisting of questions and answers. The structure of this complex had, of course, never been studied by propositional logic; but with help from Bacon, Descartes, and others I could hazard a few statements about it.

The current logic maintained that two propositions might, simply as propositions, contradict one another, and that by examining them simply as propositions you could find out whether they did so or not. This I denied. If you cannot tel what a proposition means unless you know what question it is meant to answer, you will mistake its meaning if you make a mistake about that question. One symptom of mistaking the meaning of a proposition is thinking that it contradicts another proposition which in fact it does not contradict.

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