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Collingwood, Bradley, and Critical History

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Collingwood argues in The Idea of History that we should reject the common-sense theory of history because it uses what he calls the “scissors and paste” approach that connects the reports of authorities about past events without critical analysis. Collingwood proclaims that Bradley initiates a Copernican revolution in history that makes the historian and his or her experiences the judge and jury of the eyewitnesses. However, he believes Bradley is silent concerning the constructive element that “fills the gaps” left behind in the records of the past. I believe Collingwood may have overlooked this aspect of Bradley’s thought because, if we look to passages in The Presuppositions, he implicitly argues for a constructive element along with the critical attitude. Since both think history is critical, their agreement on the historian being the criterion brings up interesting philosophical problems concerning subjectivism.

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