The touch of King Midas: Collingwood on why actions are not events

Philosophical Explorations 21 (1):160-169 (2018)
Giuseppina D'Oro
Keele University
It is the ambition of natural science to provide complete explanations of reality. Collingwood argues that science can only explain events, not actions. The latter is the distinctive subject matter of history and can be described as actions only if they are explained historically. This paper explains Collingwood’s claim that the distinctive subject matter of history is actions and why the attempt to capture this subject matter through the method of science inevitably ends in failure because science explains events, not actions. It argues that Collingwood’s defence of the methodological autonomy of history vis-à-vis natural science is not based on a commitment to human exceptionalism, i.e. the exclusion of human beings and their doings from the rest of nature, but on the view that explanations which appeal to norms are different in kind from explanations which appeal to empirical regularities. Given the close relationship between the method and the subject matter of a form of inquiry, actions elude any attempt to explain them through the scientific method because the application of this method entails that what is thus explained is not an action but an event.
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DOI 10.1080/13869795.2017.1421697
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References found in this work BETA

The Function of General Laws in History.Carl G. Hempel - 1942 - Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):35-48.
Unlikely Bedfellows? Collingwood, Carnap and the Internal/External Distinction.Giuseppina D'Oro - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (4):802-817.
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Why Re-Enactment is Not Empathy, Once and for All.Tyson Retz - 2017 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 11 (3):306-323.
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