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Full Access Collingwood’s Opposition to Biography

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Collingwood’s Opposition to Biography

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Abstract Biography is usually distinguished from history and, in comparison, looked down upon. R. G. Collingwood’s view of biography seems to fit this statement considering that he says it has only gossip-value and that “history it can never be”. His main concern is that biography exploits and arouses emotions which he excludes from the domain of history. In the paper I will try to show that one can salvage a more positive view of biography from within Collingwood’s work and claim that his explicit attacks against biography target specifically the sensationalist kind. First, I will show that Collingwood, in his later writings, allowed that, not only thought, but also relevant emotions can be the subject matter of history, which means that even if one takes biography to deal with emotions, it can still qualify as history. Second, I will argue, based mainly on Collingwood’s Principles of Art, that biography can be compared to portrait painting, in which case, it can be redeemed as a work of art and not just craft and, thus, have more than entertainment value. It can also be part of history, and more specifically part of the history of art which Collingwood endorses, if one takes the life of an individual, recounted by a biographer, to be an artistic creation, as Collingwood seems to suggest.

Affiliations: 1: University of Athens vkindi@phs.uoa.gr

10.1163/187226312X625591
/content/journals/10.1163/187226312x625591
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Abstract Biography is usually distinguished from history and, in comparison, looked down upon. R. G. Collingwood’s view of biography seems to fit this statement considering that he says it has only gossip-value and that “history it can never be”. His main concern is that biography exploits and arouses emotions which he excludes from the domain of history. In the paper I will try to show that one can salvage a more positive view of biography from within Collingwood’s work and claim that his explicit attacks against biography target specifically the sensationalist kind. First, I will show that Collingwood, in his later writings, allowed that, not only thought, but also relevant emotions can be the subject matter of history, which means that even if one takes biography to deal with emotions, it can still qualify as history. Second, I will argue, based mainly on Collingwood’s Principles of Art, that biography can be compared to portrait painting, in which case, it can be redeemed as a work of art and not just craft and, thus, have more than entertainment value. It can also be part of history, and more specifically part of the history of art which Collingwood endorses, if one takes the life of an individual, recounted by a biographer, to be an artistic creation, as Collingwood seems to suggest.

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/content/journals/10.1163/187226312x625591
2012-01-01
2016-12-08

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