Collingwood, Oakeshott and Webb on the 'historical element' in religion

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This paper explores the relationship between religion and history in the writings of R.G. Collingwood, Michael Oakeshott, and Clement C. J. Webb. Focussing principally on the early work of Collingwood and of Oakeshott and the later work of Webb, the paper shows that for all three philosophers the development of historical understanding in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had important religious implications. While many of their British Idealist predecessors and contemporaries had responded to the 'higher criticism' of the Bible by constructing speculative philosophies of history, Collingwood, Oakeshott and Webb understood history to be a genuine form of understanding that could not be so easily translated into other terms. Where Collingwood and Webb sought to integrate history with other expressions of mind, Oakeshott insisted on separating the various 'modes of experience'. The effect of this is to insulate religion from historical criticism but also, from the perspective of Collingwood and Webb, potentially undermine it by isolating it from ultimate truth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-115
Number of pages25
JournalCollingwood and British idealism studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Collingwood
  • Oakeshott
  • Webb
  • history
  • religion
  • idealism


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