Tag Archives: Collingwood

War and Talk

This is a foray into the mystery of how things happen, based the 164th of the 361 chapters of War and Peace. This chapter contains, in a one-sentence paragraph, a summary of Tolstoy’s theory of history:

Each man lives for himself, using his freedom to attain his personal aims, and feels with his whole being that he can now do or abstain from doing this or that action; but as soon as he has done it, that action performed at a certain moment in time becomes irrevocable and belongs to history, in which it has not a free but a predestined significance.

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Thales of Miletus

This is about Thales of Miletus and what it means to study him. I am moved to ask what history is in the first place. It is a study of the freedom in which we face our conditions. Thales had his way of understanding the world, and we may benefit from trying to learn it.

“The Thaleses of the future are meeting in Didim, September 24,  2016”

“The Thaleses of the future are meeting in Didim, September 24, 2016”

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One & Many

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This essay—these notes for an essay, this draft of an essay—is inspired by Robert Pirsig’s first book. I have made sectional divisions where they seemed to occur naturally.

zen

While we who work at universities may be employed by the state, our true work is to serve not the state as such, but what may be called knowledge, or science, or reason. This is a theme of Pirsig, which I take up here. Continue reading

Nicole at the Golden Horn

The setting was gorgeous. We were atop a hotel (and former convent) opposite the compound of the Italian Consulate—the Italian Embassy, in Ottoman times, before Mustafa Kemal founded the Turkish Republic and moved the capital to Ankara. We looked out over old trees. The street just below us was closed to cars; off to the right it became a stairway and a narrow passage up to İstiklâl Caddesi. Beyond the trees of the Consulate were the Golden Horn and Seraglio Point, with the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara beyond. As night fell, electric lights illuminated the Seraglio itself—Topkapı Palace—along with the Hagia Sophia.
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Thoreau by the Aegean

In a session of the 1986–7 senior laboratory at St John’s College in Santa Fe, for reasons that I do not recall, our tutor asked us students whether we had any heroes: for it was said that young people of the day no longer had heroes. None of the students at the table named a hero. I myself refrained from telling how I had once named a hero, when asked to do so in a high-school French class. This hero was the Buddha.

In recent times, I have listed my favorite writers as Somerset Maugham, Robert Pirsig, and R.G. Collingwood. I might add Charlotte Bronte and Mary Midgley to the list. I cannot add the Buddha, because he is not a writer. If my list were of writers and thinkers, I still could not add the Buddha: I cannot know him or any other thinker well enough, except through his own writing. But now I would add Henry David Thoreau. Continue reading

Liberation

This article is based on quotations from three writers, of three different nationalities, who share a spirit with which I am in sympathy:

  1. “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
  2. ”The real cycle you’re working on is the cycle called ‘yourself.’”
  3. ‘I thought that the democratic system was not only a form of government but a school of political experience coextensive with the nation.’

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The Writer and the Persona

One may like a writer’s books without liking the writer. I have not had opportunity to test this maxim directly; but the experience of reading The First Mate’s Log may come close to what is needed. I like the book, as I like all of Collingwood’s books. But the Log is what it says, an account of Mediterranean Sea voyage taken by the author with a bunch of young men (Oxford students) half his age. The Log perhaps reveals more of Collingwood’s personality than his philosophy books do. Or maybe Collingwood just adopts a somewhat different persona for the Log.

I reproduce below the first chapter of the Log. Continue reading

Equality Is Not Identity

I want to record here an account by Collingwood of Aristotle’s theory of knowledge. The passages quoted below are relevant, both to something I have learned from reading Euclid with students, and to the considerations of consciousness that led to my recent article “Body and Mind.” Continue reading

The Peace of Liberal Education

The wall of Dolmabahçe Sarayı, January 11, 2015

The wall of Dolmabahçe Sarayı, January 11, 2015

The occasion of this article is my discovery of a published Turkish translation of Collingwood’s Speculum Mentis or The Map of Knowledge (Oxford, 1924). Published as Speculum Mentis ya da Bilginin Haritası (Ankara: Doğu Batı, 2014), the translation is by Kubilay Aysevenler and Zerrin Eren. Near the end of the book, Collingwood writes the following paragraph about education, or what I would call more precisely liberal education. The main purpose of this article then is to offer the paragraph to any reader who happens to stop by.

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Bosphorus Sky

This is about the morning of Thursday, December 18, 2014, a morning I spent by the Bosphorus, thinking mostly about poetry, and photographing the sky.

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