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History, Ethics and Philosophy: Bernard Williams’ Appraisal of R. G. Collingwood

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The author examines Williams’ appraisal of Collingwood both in his eponymous essay on Collingwood, in the posthumously published Sense of the Past (2006), and elsewhere in his work. The similarities and differences between their philosophies are explored: in particular, with regard to the relationship between philosophy and history and the relationship between the study of history and our present-day moral attitudes. It is argued that, despite Williams usually being classified as an analytic philosopher and Collingwood being classified as an idealist, there is substantial common ground between them. Williams was aware of this and made clear his sympathy for Collingwood; but, nonetheless, the relationship between Williams and Collingwood has not previously been explored in any detail. After establishing the common ground between these philosophers, and the areas of disagreement, the author suggests that both may have something to gain from the other.

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