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Collingwood and the Relation between Theory, Practice and Values in Historical Thinking

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In texts such as An Autobiography, Collingwood asserts that historical thinking as he understood it effects a "rapprochement" between theory and practice or even a "negation" of this traditional distinction, a thesis that would seem to place him on the opposite side of the debate about the place of values in historical research to figures such as Max Weber, who famously argued for history and the social sciences being "value free" disciplines. This article then investigates this apparent contrast, taking a critical approach to the arguments Collingwood propounds on the topic across a range of his later writings. After noting the curiously limited nature of these arguments however, Collingwood's self-styled "historical" conception of duty is discussed to show that in fact, his position on the place of values in historical research was indistinguishable to Weber's, since at the centre of both is the doctrine that judgements about what to do can never be simply deduced from scholarly study, but instead must be willed in practice itself.

Affiliations: 1: Cardiff University


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