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By Robin George Collingwood

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Like Wordsworth's Leech-gatherer, it took on a strange air of significance ; it seemed Like one whom I had met with in a dream; Or like a man from some far region sent, T o give me human strength, by apt admonishment. Everything about it was visibly mis-shapen, corrupt, crawling, verminous; for a time I could not bear to look at it, and passed with averted eyes; recovering from this weakness, I forced myself to look, and to face day by day the question: a thing so obviously, so incontrovertibly, so indefensibly bad, why had Scott done it?

The structure of this complex had, of course, never been studied by propositional logic; but with help from Bacon, Descartes, and others I could hazard a few statements about it. Each question and each answer in a given complex had to be relevant or appropriate, had to 'belong' both to the whole and to the place it occupied in the whole. Each question had to 'arise7; there must be that about it whose absence we condemn when we refuse to answer a question on the ground that it 'doesn't arise7. Each answer must be 'the right' answer to the question it professes to answer.

In lecturing, I adopted a similar procedure. I had become something of a specialist in Aristotle, and the first lectures I gave were on the De Anima. ' What I wanted was to train my audience in the scholarly approach to a philosophical text, leaving on one side, as sufficiently provided for by other teachers, the further business of criticizing its doctrine. By the time war broke out in 1914and put a stop to 28 INCLINATION O F A SAPLING all this, I had not indeed answered to my own satisfaction the threefold question stated earlier in this chapter; but I had made good progress with what I have called the flank attack upon it.

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An autobiography by Robin George Collingwood


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