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October 2021

R. G. Collingwood and the idea of a historical psychology

Author(s): Costall, A.

Journal/Book: Theor Psychol. 2000; 10: 2455 Teller Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, USA. Sage Publications Inc. 147-170.

Abstract: R.G. Collingwood's antagonism to scientific psychology is notorious. As a philosopher, especially an Oxford philosopher, such antagonism was hardly exceptional. Yet, in fact, Collingwood's attitude to the new science of psychology was remarkably ambivalent. He showed a keen interest in developments in the new science, regarded Freud as one of the greatest living scientists, and indeed himself pursued a full course of analysis. Nevertheless, Collingwood's criticisms of scientific psychology were searching, and involved a variety of distinct (though largely complementary) arguments. In relation to particular theorists, he objected to self-contradictions, pursuit of 'red herrings' arising from prevarication in the use of established terms, and 'plagiarism': More fundamentally, he rejected the 'covert scepticism' of psychology In its adoption of a purely empirical, 'non-criteriological', approach to the study of thinking, an approach he regarded as appropriate solely to a science of 'feeling'. Closely linked to this was his other main criticism of psychology, its presumption that the objects of study are transhistorical universals. In The Idea of History, however, Collingwood raised, though hardly elaborated, an alternative conception for a scientific psychology, as an essentially historical study, whose aim 'would be to detect types or patterns of activity, repeated over and over again in history itself' (Collingwood, 1946, p. 224). Collingwood's historical conception of psychology is explored in the light of his objections to scientific psychology.

Note: Article Connelly J, Southampton Inst, Fac Social Sci, E Park Terrace, Southampton SO14 0YN, Hants, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): Collingwood; history; philosophy; psychology; relativism; SOCIAL-PSYCHOLOGY; COLOR


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