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The Idea of Nature [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Robin George Collingwood , R. G. Collingwood

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12. Februar 2014
2014 Reprint of 1945 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. The first part deals with Greek cosmology and is the longest, the most elaborate and, on the whole, the liveliest part of a book which never deviates into dullness. The dominant thought in Greek cosmology, Collingwood holds, was the microcosm-macrocosm analogy, nature being the substance of something ensouled where "soul" meant the self-moving. Part II is "The Renaissance View of Nature ". Collingwood describes the rise and decline of the deists' view of Nature as a machine designed by the Great Contriver who, having turned it out, watches it go. Part III, "The Modern View of Nature", deals with very recent or contemporary philosophy and science, discerning in it a radical evolutionism first in biology and later in cosmology. Remains to this day a classic text in the history of ideas.

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The late R. G. Collingwood was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford University. Jan van der Dussen is Professor of History and Philosophy at the Open University of the Netherlands.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 von 5 Sternen  4 Rezensionen
18 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen A worthy study, at times illuminating. 20. November 2003
Von Frank Bierbrauer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
R. G. Collingwood has produced a little book detailing how the concept/idea of nature changed throughout western history (notably any Chinese or Indian construction is left out). Collingwood has a very deep understanding, especially of the Greek philosophers, and one feels his familiarity with their work in contrast to later philosophers such as Spinoza or Descartes. He bases his study of this change on three fundamental principles he has singled out to describe "nature" within each period. These periods are defined by the Greek/middle ages period extending from 500BC to around the 14th Century, the Renaissance period extending from the 15th Century to the late 19th and the modern one from there onwards. In each case he characterises the conception of nature as, (in a book of 180 pages)
1. Greek period: nature as a living organism, 70 pages.
2. Renaissance period: nature as a machine, 20 pages.
3. Modern period: nature viewed as evolving, 60 pages.
the remaining pages are introduction of the main trends. Collingwood in each case analyses the general view within the period and provides examples in each case although his treatment of Aristotle is meagre when compared to Plato. the Renaissance view is not as developed as the other two and many philosophers of note are not discussed. In the 18th Century Locke is briefly mentioned as is Hume but Berkeley and Kant are given the floor. Of the 19th Century Hegel is the main one although other German idealists are barely mentioned eg Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer; in fact the other contributers to this trend such as Schiller and Goethe are not mentioned even when they often gave the original impetus to such an approach. In the modern period no philosophers other than Alexander and Whitehead are really discussed with the main drive being allocated to the physicists who developed quantum mechanics and relativity although Bergson is briefly discussed more as an aside and brief sojourn away from the modern trend a kind of throwback to an earlier time.
Collingwood criticises the main theories of each period and once again it is the ancient philsophers who he understands best and his description of their ideas is the fullest. His critiques appear just in this era but varies as he discusses the other periods. In some cases I feel his criticism is unjust especially when it does not seem that his statements apply. Overall the study is in depth and justified and much can be learned from this book instead of having to read each philosopher in turn. Nonetheless Collingwood is one man and the book represents an opinion with good justification throughout. A fuller study would have taken years to write and been produced in several volumes, instead Collingwood cuts it down as much as possible and looks at the bare bones. A worthy study, at times illuminating.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A powerful, clear, and illuminating study of Western conceptions of nature 26. Oktober 2009
Von Nathan Andersen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
R.G. Collingwood (1889-1943) is perhaps best known for his aesthetics and for his distinctive approach to the philosophy of history. His interests and background ranged much more widely, and a consistent feature of his work is to clarify the relations between domains of thought held to be distinct, such as religion, art, history, science and philosophy. In this work, he aims to clarify the aims and scope of natural science, by examining the historical development of the idea of nature. He identifies three broad historical periods in which investigations into the natural world coincided with philosophical reflections on the methods and presuppositions of such investigations. Nature, he argues, was conceived along radically different lines in each of these periods, with the implication that natural science must be understood in light of and in relation to history.

Perhaps this thought has become a commonplace since the appearance of Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and given the rise of "History and Philosophy of Science" departments at major research universities around the world. It was a radical insight in Collingwood's time, when the positivist assumption that natural science and its results and proper methods are independent from history tended to dominate philosophy departments, even if it was at odds with what Collingwood took to be a growing recognition among some scientists that the natural world and its processes are themselves historical and evolving.

In rough outline, Collingwood argues that the ancient Greeks conceived of nature along the lines of a living organism - or considered that the living organism was the paradigm of a natural thing. To understand Thales' proclamation that "all is water" requires that we not think of water as a dead, inert, material stuff, but as a kind of dynamic, self moving substance (or how else could we reconcile that claim with another famously cryptic claim by Thales that "all things are full of gods"?). He argues, by contrast, that the early modern or renaissance thinkers responsible for the "scientific revolution" conceived of nature mechanistically, as a kind of machine, an aggregate of parts that exert forces on other parts. Note that this is a radical shift: whereas for the Greeks (as Aristotle put it) things in nature are self moving, for the Renaissance thinkers nature is inert, which means it can't move itself but has to be pushed. To read Aristotle with a mechanistic conception in mind, is to radically misread him. The modern or twentieth century conception of nature, Collingwood argues, was pointing in a new direction, towards a conception of nature as an evolving historical system. Not only Darwin, but quantum mechanics and ecology can be thought of along these lines. To understand a natural system or process rightly according to these (then) new approaches is to recognize it as having come to be what it is as a result of an ongoing history of interactions with other systems or processes.

Collingwood's study is obviously of historical interest, but also for its methodology, for exemplifying a rigorous philosophical approach to the history of ideas, and for its important implications regarding the relations between history, science and philosophy. Scientists, he argues, need to understand the methods and teachings of history as much as historians and philosophers need to be attentive to the results of natural science, which can only be understood properly in light of history.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A must-read book (at least the Introduction) for scientists and philosophers 1. April 2011
Von Lev Goldfarb - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
The author died before the manuscript has been completely prepared for publication, so you will have to cope with some minor language deficiencies. However, although the book was mostly written in the 1930's, the abundance of original and unfortunately unnoticed important ideas just in the Introduction itself (the first 27 pages) will more than repay your efforts.

To wet your appetite here are some fragments from the end of the Introduction.


"If an historian had no more means of apprehending events that occupied more than an hour, he could describe the burning down of a house but not the building of a house; the assassination of Caesar but not his conquest of Gaul; ... the performance of a symphony but not its composition. If two historians gave each his own answer to the question: 'What kind of event happen, or can or might happen, in history?' their answers would be extremely different if one habitually thought of an event as something that takes an hour and the other as something that takes ten years; and a third who conceived an event as taking anything up to 1,000 years would give a different answer again.

... In general, making things takes longer than destroying them. The shorter our standard time-phase for an historical event, the more our history will consist of destructions, catastrophes, battle, and sudden death. But destruction implies the existence of something to destroy; and as this type of history cannot describe how such a thing came into existence, for the process of its coming into existence was ... too long to be conceived ..., its existence must be presupposed as given, ready-made, miraculously established by some force outside history.

... I have quoted late Mr. Sullivan's remark that the second law of thermodynamics applies only from the human point of view and would be unnecessary for an intelligent microbe. ... [A]n intelligent organism whose life had a [much] longer time-rhythm than man's might find it not so much unnecessary as untrue.

The natural processes that come most easily within ordinary human observation, it may be, are predominantly of a destructive kind, like the historical events that come most easily within the knowledge of the historian who thinks of an event as something that takes a short time. Like such an historian, the natural scientist, it may be, is led by this fact to think of events in nature as in the main destructive: releases or dissipations of energy ...; to think of the natural world as running down like a clock or being shot away like a store of ammunition. ...

May it not be the same in the world of nature? May it not be the case that the modern picture of a running-down universe, in which energy is by degrees exchanging a non-uniform and arbitrary distribution (that is, a distribution not accounted for by any laws yet known to us, and therefore in effect a given, ready-made, miraculously established distribution ...) for a uniform distribution, according to the second law of thermodynamics, is a picture based on habitual observation of relatively short-phase processes, and one destined to be dismissed as illusory at some future date, when closer attention has been paid to processes whose time-phase is longer? Or even if these long-phase processes should continue to elude human observation, may it not be found necessary to dismiss the same picture as illusory because, according to the principles of evolutionary physics, we shall find ourselves obliged to postulate such processes even though we cannot directly observe them?"
1 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great Book from a Great Philosopher 25. Februar 2004
Von Matthew Bradley - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I recommend this book to anyone who has ever tried to think about "nature". This book shows how the concept of nature has changed in Western Civilization, and how we can best think about this abstract concept today.
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