Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monograph #9 Robin George Collingwood

The Holocaust

We find ourselves obliged to imagine it as having occupied intermediate positions when we were not looking. That is already an example of historical thinking

-Robin George Collingwood (1946)

Throughout History, the most terrible slaughter, “the Holocaust” was genocide of approximately 6 million European Jews during the Second World War, a program of systematic state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler. (Wikipedia)

This systematic killing of people is something that has never been before. It was not a war. It was killing of people done by one state against powerless people. Some of people say that the Holocaust was the result of personal hatred of Hitler against Jews which came from scar he got from Jewish people when he was young. This is somehow possible assumption. However could we kill like 6 million of people just because we hate that race? Can we generalize the Holocaust just as the event that occurred because of one’s hatred against Jewish people? It is quite obvious that there was hidden intention and factor made Hitler conceived this terrible extermination aside from his personal hatred of Jews. And the hidden intention and factor can be drawn from his life and experiences.

There was a reserved man whose dream was to be a painter. He was an ordinary man. No, he was not ordinary because his life was full of failures. In everything he did, he experienced failure. He was Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany who raised his nation up from ashes to the position of one of the strongest nations in Europe.

It was during the First World War when his life began to change. During the war, He was a runner, one of the most dangerous jobs on the Western Front, and was often exposed to enemy fire. He participated in a number of major battles on the Western Front, including the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele. He was twice awarded for his bravery. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an hoor rarely given to a Gefreiter. On 15 October 1918, Hitler temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack. It was as Hitler has said this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to “save Germany”. However, Germany was completely defeated by America, Great Britain and France in this war. Germany was imposed huge amount of reparation and forbidden to arm herself in treaty of Versailles. The articles signed in treaty of Versailles were designed to make Germany powerless. Germany had no choice but to accept the treaty of Versailles. German defeat was great shock to Hitler as much as his loyalty to his nation.

Hitler saw how the defeat in the First World War made Germans frustrated, discouraged, and hopeless. They lost their self-esteem as a German. Hitler, in his book “Mein Kampf” discuss two important things- criticism against accepting of Government the Treaty of Versailles and emphasis superiority of German race and vulgarness of Jews.

He already knew that the key to German recovery from frustration after defeat was recovery of self-esteem of German people as a German. And the means he chose to recover racial self-esteem of German people was the persecution of Jewish people who at the time had achieved economic dominance and the ability to control and manipulate the mass media to their own advantage.

Hitler was trying to make German people recognize that German race was quite better than any other races specially Jews. Actually, his method was quite effective to convince German people. Under Hitler’s leadership, the German people quickly recovered their self-esteem and it enabled Germany overcome the hardships she faced as the result of the war.

The Holocaust was incentive to German people. Hitler succeeded to brainwash German people that German was the best in the world through persecuting other races. It was actually great driving force which led German to recovery and to once again become super power in Europe.

So what was his hidden intention behind the Holocaust? For Hitler, the holocaust was not simply for satisfaction of his hatred against Jews but the key of recovery of German self-esteem which would lead Germany to be the one of the strongest nations in Europe once again.


Adolf Hitler.(September 20, 2009). In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:09 September 20, 2009 from

Holocaust (September 19, 2009). In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia Retrieved 10:23 September 19, 2009 from

The Holocaust, Retrieved from Encarta Encyclopedia (1993-2003): Microsoft Corporation

Tony Mcaleavy (2004). Twentieth Century History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Collingwood, R. G. (1946). The idea of history. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Pp.

Position Paper #9 Robin George Collingwood


History, Something More Than Past Events

As a Historian, I do not want to define history just as ‘a study of the past’. History tells us not just what happened in the past but gives us teachings that each of Historical events implies. I do not value history like Antiquarian Historians who valued history just because it was old. Perhaps, the events of the past are not really important to me but the teachings and insights that the events imply are really precious to me. History is not just an observation on the past things but it is a science which requires precise analysis and investigation because historians should be able to profoundly look into the inside of specific historical events and not just the appearance of the events.

Robin George Collingwood is the one who thought of history as a ‘Science of human nature’. Collingwood was quite active in treating and studying history. He believed that historical events are interpreted as the expression of particular thought and mentality of culture, which are from human reason.

The philosophers like Kant and Hegel believed that the history was the work of human reason and I also partially agree with that view of history. Actually, the reason is not the most important factor that makes and moves history (It is God’s prudence) but it still takes an important role in history. The presence and development of human reason is obviously shown in historical events if we notice. I believe that the human society has been developing in accordance with development of human reason. No development of human reason means no development in society at all. For that reason, Collingwood tried to study about human mind, or reason, the cognitive part of mind.

The concept of Collingwood, which considers history as a science, is quite different from Scientism of philosophers of Enlightenment. He did not see history and reality of human reason as fixed. I believe that he thought of history as a science because studying history requires precise analysis and carful investigation and not based on the belief that history can be interpreted and analyzed as it is put into some formulas and rules.

I agree with the view of Collingwood on history. His view elevates the value of history by emphasizing the fact that history is not just past events, but there is something more behind them of which our studies should be focused on. And he believed that we can obtain real and accurate understanding about Physical world through this natural science. I quote: “the principles and methods of natural science had been lately perfected and were being triumphantly applied to the investigation of the physical world.” (Collingwood, 1946)

I strongly argue that a Historian should be able to point out the rational activity of human reason which makes certain phenomenon occurs. We should not be satisfied by just getting information about the event itself. We must go deeper and draw the real factor behind external appearance which caused an event. What made it happen? What did this event imply? This is the worth of History. Some say that history is boring and somehow passive. However, we see in Collingwood’s theory how much we should be active in studying history and that history is the study which requires high intellectual level. If the history is just about past events, we have nothing to do but to memorize them in their chronological order. However, the virtue of history makes me proud to be a historian. This is what is really exciting and interesting about history. History is quite a fundamental study that carefully and precisely looks into human reason and rational activity and cause, which crucially affect every event in the world of humans.

Therefore, I believe that Collingwood has made a great contribution on philosophy of history by pointing out the true value of history and giving us a clear direction so that we can know where to focus on in studying history.


A Priori Imagination, Walking in History

The history of thought, and therefore all history, is the re-enactment of past
thought in the historian's own mind.

-Robin George Collingwood (1946)

However, the problem is how we will be able to draw hidden insights and teachings behind the events. Actually, most of historical records are not presenting the state of human reason and how it works behind the story but it only shows what exactly happened during a certain period. This is a great obstacle for historians to analyze and interpret the historical events by means of investigating rational aspect of human being.

Collingwood was aware of this problem and proposed the solution to it. The solution is the use of “a Priori Imagination’. It helps us to profoundly look into the historical events and gives us understanding and analysis about inside of the events. A priori imagination is reenacting the past events using our own imagination and rational ability to assume what the situation must be like and what the state of mind of historical character must be like in accordance with historical context. In other words, a priori imagination simply refers to putting one’s self into a certain historical events and being a character in the events. Collingwood gave an example of a priori imagination. By being Caesar before he went across the Rubicon we may as well be able to understand what was in his mind, which was what caused the events after he went across the Rubicon. We cannot exactly know what Caesar was thinking about at that time but the historical context and our rational ability can at least assume what Caesar could have thought. This is a great help for us to have better understanding about the events made by Caesar.

Likewise, a priori imagination requires a high level of rational ability and precise analysis about historical context, which is the situation of society at that time. We should not use a priori imagination thoughtlessly and blindly. It is not an easy thing.

A historian’s a priori imagination should fit with historical context of the events. I quote: The historian not only re-enacts past thought, he re-enacts it in the context of his own knowledge. (Collingwood, 1946)

I stated above that Collingwood was quite an active Historian. He suggested to us to go into history and meet the reality of history rather than being an armchair of historians who makes large scales of schematization with no reality and no real practice. I quite agree with his attitude in studying history. I believe that historians ought to throw away passive attitude in studying history. We have to stop looking at history in a third person’s view. Rather, we must be a part of history. We must depart from our desks and go into history and walk into it. I strongly believe that this active attitude will bring great understanding and analysis of history.


Kant, I. (1824). The idea of a universal history on a cosmopolitical plan. (De Quincey,
T., Trans.). In London Magazine. (Originally published in 1784).

Hegel, G.W.F. (2001). The philosophy of history (J. Sibree, Trans.). Kitchener, Ontario:
Batoche Books.

Collingwood, R. G. (1946). The idea of history. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Pp.
205-334 .

Nietzsche, F. (2007). On the use and abuse of history for life (I. C. Johnston, Trans.).
(Originally published in 1873). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from

Marie Hughes Warrington (2009). 50 Key Thinker on History New York: Routlege

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monograph #8 Arnold J. Toynbee

The League of Nations, Response to the First World War

It was terrible. Everything was gone and destroyed. From August 1914 to November 1918, the terrible war, which has never ever been before, swept all over the European continent. Of the 65 million men who were mobilized, more than 10 million were killed and more than 20 million wounded. There was also tremendous loss in resources. People of the world were all shocked by the fact that such terrible war had happen.

Actually, there have been a lot of big and small wars in Europe. However, the war that took place in 1914 was totally different from the wars in Europe. There has never been such world-sized war. Imagine how the lives of people were ruined. By this Great War, the European continent was filled with sorrow and cries of the victims of the war. There was no winner of the war.

It would be considered as the most disastrous event that human species have ever experienced since the world began. Now the world had to face the greatest challenge that was never met before. To respond to that challenge the world leaders gathered in Versailles on Jan 18, 1919 during Paris Peace Conference.

Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States was the one who determined what to do in order to appease to the terrible misery of the world that was brought by the great challenge of the war. He proposed, Fourteen Points for Peace:

1. abolition of secret diplomacy by open covenants, openly arrived at;
2. freedom of the seas in peace and war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or part by international action for enforcement of international covenants;
3. removal of international trade barriers wherever possible and establishment of an equality of trade conditions among the nations consenting to the peace;
4. reduction of armaments consistent with public safety;
5. adjustment of colonial disputes consistent with the interests of both the controlling government and the colonial population;
6. evacuation of Russian territory, with the proviso of self-determination;
7. evacuation and restoration of Belgium;
8. evacuation and restoration of French territory, including Alsace-Lorraine;
9. readjustment of Italian frontiers along clearly recognizable lines of nationality;
10. autonomy for the peoples of Austria-Hungary;
11. evacuation and restoration of territory to Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania, granting of seaports to Serbia, and readjustment and international guarantee of the national ambitions of the Balkan nations;
12. self-determination for non-Turkish peoples under Turkish control and internationalization of the Dardanelles;
13. an independent Poland, with access to the sea; and
14. Creation of a general association of nations under specific covenants to give mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity.

These proposals of Wilson convinced people and based on the Fourteen Points for Peace, the League of Nations, which was the very first international organization that promotes world peace by enacting international laws, was founded. Actually, the idea of the League of Nations had been outlined by Immanuel Kant who insisted that there should be international organization that can control conflicts and promote peace between states. His claim came to be true after the First World War.

Regardless of how the League of Nations was successful, it is highly valued as the first international organization for peace due to its contributions to great development of international laws. Truly the League of Nations was a cornerstone of growth and development of the international promotion of peace and later on, it was continued on by United Nation.

Perhaps, the establishment of such organization that brings development and progress in international laws which promote world peace should have been before. However, that happened after the Great War damaged the world a lot. Ironically, what brought the establishment of peaceful international organization, which greatly contributed in development of international laws, was the First World War. Perhaps, if there was not such a strong challenge in the First World War, there would not have been any types of development of international organizations and laws.


14 points for peace. Retrieved from Encarta Encyclopedia (1993-2003), Microsoft Corporation

The First World War Retrieved from Encarta Encyclopedia (1993-2003), Microsoft Corporation

The League of Nations (September 14, 2009) In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:58 from

International laws (September 11, 2009) In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia Retrieved 00:53 from

Position Paper #7 Arnold J. Toynbee


Challenge and Response

Arnold Toynbee considers Civilization as the important unit in the analysis of History because civilization is the aggregate in which cultures, institutions and all the human acts interact with each other and are united. So I believe that History can simply be a study of civilizations. Civilization shows not only materialistic and social development of human species but also all the aspects of human life, specifically how human reason has been developed and progressed. Civilization truly contains everything that we need to analyze and understand the past. Therefore, the view of Toynbee, taking civilization as the important subject in History, is reasonable and appropriate in studying History.

What distinguishes a man from an animal? It is the rational ability of the mankind. It led mankind to take ways of life that was different from other animal species. Man’s reason and potentials have caused the developments and progressions of human species and it came to be shown as the emergence of Civilization. Civilization is truly the work of human reason. About the emergence of Civilization, Toynbee insists that the emergence of civilization was caused by challenges and their rightful responses. It means that as human species faced various problems and difficulties in their lives, they tried to do something in response to overcome the problem and the result of the response was the development and progresses of civilization. Truly I believe that everything human invented and innovated is made to satisfy the needs of human species. The needs of men have always come when they face the challenges.

I actually agree with Toynbee’s challenge and response theory. I would like to support his idea with one of Kant’s nine theses. Kant states:

Fourth Thesis: The means employed by Nature to bring about the development of all the capacities of men is their antagonism in society, so far as this is, in the end, the cause of a lawful order among men. (Kant, 1784)

This thesis of Kant, which is in some ways inconsistent, can give us important keys to understand the challenge and response theory of Toynbee. Mankind meets the challenge of antagonism in its society which brings conflicts and disorder. However we see that human species respond to this challenge by establishing law and order among them. That is why Kant insists social antagonism causes the lawful order among men.

Likewise, most of the changes and innovations have taken place as a response to the challenges and needs that mankind faced. If there was no challenge of floods that damaged the lives of people in Nile River, there could not possibly be a development of irrigation. If there was no challenge of illnesses, there could not be a development of medical science. History proves that when human beings face challenges they work to overcome it and through this struggle they achieve the progressions in their society.

I would also like to point out the fact that dialectic process is applied to the theory of challenge and response. Hegel insists that the human societies and civilizations are developed through dialectic process. Dialectic process proposed by Hegel is defined as: an interpretive method, originally used to relate specific entities or events to the absolute idea, in which some assertible proposition (Thesis) is necessarily opposed by an equally assertible and apparently contradictory proposition (antithesis), the mutual contradiction being reconciled on a higher level of truth by a third proposition (Synthesis). (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary) Actually, antithesis challenges against thesis. However we see that the coming of antithesis leads us to reach synthesis which is better than thesis. Without antithesis (challenge), synthesis (response) would never come.

I strongly believe that men are overcomers. I would like to refer human species to a surfer. Surfer does not fear the big waves. For him, it is a chance to go higher and overcome the waves. Likewise, we need the waves of challenge because they will give us the way to develop and progress in our civilization.


Transitional Period

According to Toynbee, when a civilization begins, they tend to pass four phases: Growth, Breakdown, Disintegration, and Universal state.

First, the growth of civilization is achieved through the challenges and responses. Human species face various obstacles, but as they overcome them, the civilization goes forward and progresses. Growth happens because of creative individuals who exhibit a pattern of withdrawal from and return to society.

Second, the breakdown of civilization in ‘a time of trouble’ happens when the minority of creative individuals loses their creativity because of their habit of “resting on their oars”. As they tend to stay in their success in the past, they stop distributing creative ideas. Therefore, they fail to meet the next challenge successfully.

Third, the breakdown of civilization is followed by the disintegration of civilization. It splits into three crucial elements: ‘a dominant minority’, which is a degenerate stage of a formerly creative minority; ‘internal proletariat’ which is a mass of people within the civilization who no longer have any allegiance to the dominant minority and may rebel against it, and an ‘external proletariat’ that exists beyond the frontiers of the civilization and resists being incorporated into it.

Last, the universal stage appears as a part of disintegration of civilization. It brings political unity and during this stage there is “endeavor to create a state of society in which the whole of mankind will be able to live together in harmony, as members of an all-inclusive family” (Toynbee.) So in this stage, they offer unintended advantages to other institutions although sometimes universal stages fail to save themselves,
I couldn’t totally agree with Toynbee’s view of ‘breakdown of civilization’ and ‘disintegration of civilization’. I believe that the human civilizations and societies always advance forward. I do not deny that there are times that seem to breakdown and cause disintegration of civilization. However I say that those times are just another process for the civilization to go up to the next steps. Times of trouble do not mean the end of civilization; rather it means the coming of new civilization which is more developed. So I would rather call those periods as transitional periods than the breakdown and disintegration of civilization. During those times, the minority of people who were once creative is replaced by another new minority of creative people who will lead the next civilization. The time of trouble itself is the challenge to the world. Through successfully responding to the challenges the civilization will grow more. And it is shown as coming of new civilization with new creative minority.

The civilizations like Mesopotamian, Indus, Egyptian, and Chinese have vanished into History. However I do not want to say that they are destroyed or broken down. I believe every civilization has existed before has become a manure for the next civilization’s development. Therefore, I insist that the world always advances forward but does not retrogress.


Toynbee, A. J. (1935-1948). A study of history (Vol. 1). London: Oxford University.

Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View(1784). Translation by Lewis White Beck. From Immanuel Kant,“On History,”The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1963. Retrieved June 13, 2009, from htm

Hegel, G.W.F. (2001). The philosophy of history (J. Sibree, Trans.). Kitchener, Ontario:
Batoche Books.

Marie Hughes Warrington (2009). 50 Key Thinker on History New York: Routlege

Nonfiction Classics for Students (2002). New York: Thomson Gale