Collingwood and Weber vs. Mink: History after the Cognitive Turn
Louis Mink wrote a classic study of R. G. Collingwood that led to his most important contribution to the philosophy of history, his account of narrative. Central to this account was the non-detachability thesis, that facts became historical facts through incorporation into narratives, and the thesis that narratives were not comparable to the facts or to one another. His book on Collingwood was critical of Collingwood’s idea that there were facts in history that we get through self-knowledge but which are nevertheless objective, his account of re-enactment, and his notion of absolute presuppositions. It is illuminating to compare Collingwood to Weber with respect to these puzzling arguments, for the same issues arise there in different form. Recent work in social neuroscience on mirroring allows a different approach to these puzzles: mirror system “knowledge” of others and simulation fit, respectively, with Weber’s idea of direct observational understanding and Collingwood’s re-enactment account. This account allows for the detaching of historical facts about thoughts and action from narrative.