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R.G. Collingwood’s Reform of Metaphysics as Relating to the Problem of a Possible Alternative to Kant’s Copernican Revolution

Journal: The Digital Scholar: Philosopher’s Lab (Vol.2, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 86-103

Keywords : ontology; epistemology; metaphysics; Kant’s Copernican revolution; R.G. Collingwood; history of thought; conditions of possibility of knowledge; a priori and a posteriori knowledge;

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The article deals with R.G. Collingwood's “reform of metaphysics” in the context of the historical development of post-Kantian critical philosophy and science. The question raised by the author is what do such phenomena as a “return to preKantian modes of thought” (A.N. Whitehead) or “ontological turn” in contemporary philosophy mean, provided that the historical development of thought is irreversible? It is shown that Kant's Copernican revolution consisted in closing the question of external sources of knowledge. Collingwood continues the line of Kant's critical philosophy, proposing a project of “metaphysics without ontology”, which must deal with the structure of our knowledge of the world, but not with the world as it is in itself. However, Collingwood is in a different historical situation, far removed from Kant. Applying the Kantian-inspired method of regressive (or genetic) epistemological justification of experience, Collingwood sets out to uncover “absolute presuppositions”, i.e. background metaphysical assumptions about the world that make a historically new experience possible. The historical bankruptcy of Kant's fundamental idea that there is only one universal way of organizing our experience, belonging to timeless transcendental subjectivity, brings the problem of justification of knowledge claims to the ontological level. The non-removability of ontology could be understood as a real alternative to Kant's Copernican revolution. This is discussed through the reading of Collingwood, whose project of “metaphysics without ontology” reveals dependence on certain ontological premises. which show the opposite – “ontology without metaphysics”

Last modified: 2020-03-02 02:47:14