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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728

Issue number 179
23rd October 2013

Edited by Erwin B. Laya, MAT


I. 'Negative Aspects of Tolerance' by Rajakishore Nath

II. 'A Reflection on R.G. Collingwood's History: Its Meaning and
Goals' by Raymundo Pavo

III. 'Closed or Limited Nature? A Critique of Hume's Critique of the
Probability of Miracles' by Ruel Pepa



First of all, I would like to express my deep debt of gratitude to
Geoffrey Klempner in giving me a chance to be an issue editor of the
Philosophy Pathways e-journal, an internationally recognized refereed
journal. My humble experiences in selecting, reading and editing the
works of other people is already considered as my great success and

For this issue of Philosophy Pathways, Dr Rajakishore Nath from the
Indian Institute of Technology of Bombay, a regular contributor of
Philosophy Pathways, gives us an in-depth analysis on the ambivalence
of tolerance. He also cites the understanding of Mahatma Gandhi on the
concept of tolerance. Professor Nath emphasizes that 'tolerance always
accompanies self-control.' If we human beings are not in self-control,
then it will drive groups apart, creating a sense of permanent
separation between us.

A friend of mine, Raymundo R. Pavo, a philosophy professor from the
University of the Philippines-Mindanao, gives us a judicious
reflection on one of the best known writings of Robin George (R.G.)
Collingwood, The Idea of History. In his paper, Professor Pavo
critically evaluates the Collingwood's three meanings of history, and
its gradation and goals. His reflection on Collingwood's philosophy of
history gives us a fresh way of viewing history, which enhances our
understanding of history and historical knowledge.

A retired philosophy professor from the Philippines, Ruel F. Pepa,
examines critically of one of most influential critiques of miracles
ever written, Hume's Critique of the Probability of Miracles.
Professor Pepa focuses his critique on the historical probability of
miracles since Hume is also concerned with it in his essay on
miracles. At the end of his paper, he concludes that miracles have
occurred and are probable to occur.

Erwin B. Laya, MAT

Email: erwinus_layaski@yahoo.com

About the Editor:



Although there are millions of positive aspect of tolerance, but my
main aim in this article is to illustrate the negative aspects of

Tolerance is simply interpreted as non-interference. That is to say
that one person should not interfere with another. Each must grow and
develop in its own unique way. But tolerance always has a basic
attitude or tendency towards others as a moral value. In this sense,
tolerance always interferes in other social activities and although
this interference always leads to better world.

In a situation of ideological conflict between two or more persons,
one person may be tolerated by another person. If one person thinks
that it is the best way of looking after his or her own interest; or
that it is the best way of being considerable to another person. In
this case, it may be of either person's interest, but it is based on
the calculation of 'interests' irrespective of whose it is. This fact
is debatable whether even the most genuine tolerance represents
'goodwill' or suggestions of the other person being beneath notice,
much less antagonism. And again, if the tolerance is the product of
compassion, it amounts to a concession and not recognition.

There are many contradictory creeds in inverse proportion to one's
own faith. Unless one's conviction is sufficiently indifferent, there
can be intolerance of others. The related question to this statement
is: How can good things tolerate the evil things? In this sense, we
can bring few more concepts, which disapprove of tolerance. These
concepts are inequality and injustice. Can we tolerate inequality and
injustice in this society? In this case, we have to practice 'zero
tolerance', which negates the existence of tolerance either in
actions or in mind.

On the other hand, if we are tolerating injustice and inequality,
then we are welcoming the very idea of violence in our society. Can
we say tolerance is the weapon for the strong or the brave? One, who
endures sufferings, is bold and he or she can only practice
tolerance. Tolerance teaches people to be courageous. Intolerance is
the resort of the weak. The followers of tolerance never become weak
and succumb to the whims and caprices of others. Like Gandhi's idea
of non-violence, tolerance does not mean weak submission to the will
of the evil-doer. It means putting of one's whole soul against the
will of the tyrant. Tolerance will not be possible in cultures in
which sin and virtue (like good and bad/ dark and light) are aspects
of the same piece, in which they will be trying to devastate. In this
way, there are many contradictories are crumbled together under the
umbrella of tolerance.

Moreover, tolerance gives rise, at least to some extent, to being on
familiar terms with the dogmas of others or it may admit to have a
peaceful interpersonal relationship. But in the case of a theist and
an atheist, both of them opposed each other on the basis of their
convictions and basic assumptions, and one cannot tolerate each other
in their basic and fundamental principles.

Now the question is: How can they tolerate each other? Although,
there are many solutions to this question, the basic contradictions
remain non-comprehensible. For simply there is a limit to tolerance.
All moral concepts have of some limitations. In the ideal case one
practices without reference to what is tolerated. Otherwise they
would be tolerating what they approve of, and that is no great moral

On the other hand, if one tolerates what does not justify to be
tolerated, it will be a case of lost compassion. Compassion is
superior; but if it is lost, is it still superior? Tolerance does not
issue suo motto. It becomes a good value only when provocation exists;
and so the injunction 'Resist not evil' is the highest authority to
the tolerant. But if it becomes impractical for any reason, one of
which might be extreme injustice on the part of opponent, then one
shows aggravation, annoyance, and violence against oneself and which
leads psycho-physical disorder.

Is tolerance neutral? Neutralism advocates another form of escape.
Those who identify absolutely well that tolerance cannot be protected
by suspending judgment about goods and evils have difficulty defending
it in any other way. If neutrality is a square circle, then so is
tolerance, along with all of its component virtues like objectivity
and fairness.

There are many classical as well as contemporary thinkers who have
given importance to the concept of tolerance, and this provides more
motivation to become non-violent. This aspect of tolerance will
establish universal brotherhood and at the same time it upholds the
non-anthropocentric universe and this non-anthropocentric aspect
defines that all beings are intrinsically valuable to this universe.

But there are negative aspects of any kind or forms of tolerance
because it has negative connotation towards the other person. Mahatma
Gandhi also was not happy with this concept of tolerance. Tolerance
always accompanies self-control. If we human beings are not in
self-control, then it will lead to violence or coercion. While we are
practicing tolerance, we are accepting hierarchy or differences among
ourselves. This brings inequality in the society in many ways and
there is always the idea of revenge in the tolerant mind.

Instead of practicing tolerance, it is better to practice acceptance.
By accepting everything as part of our life, this will never lead to
violence because we are not tolerating anything rather than we are
accepting everything as part of our being. Here the word 'acceptance'
does not mean 'possession'. If you are taking the word 'acceptance' in
this sense, this will lead to violence. But the word 'acceptance'
means someone neither tolerating nor possessing anything, rather he
or she is establishing universal fellow beings.


Balasubramanian, R. (ed) (1992), Tolerance in Indian Culture, New
Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research.

Budziszewski, J. (1992), True Tolerance: Liberalism and the Necessity
of Judgment, USA: Transaction.

Gandhi, M. K. (1960), My Non-Violence, Ahmadabad, India: Navajivan
Publishing House.

(c) Rajakishore Nath 2013

Email: rajakishorenath@iitb.ac.in


GOALS' by Raymundo R. Pavo


Man signifies himself in history. This is an insight demonstrated in
Collingwood's position that the human mind exists in so far as it is
engaged in the reconstruction and re-enactment of past thoughts
(Collingwood, 1946: 227). By considering history from this
perspective, Collingwood proposes history as a fertile location for
self-knowledge. More to the point, historical thinking is presented
as a location wherein man can discover the achievements and
weaknesses of his mind (Ibid., 9-10). With this opportunity for
self-knowledge/ self-understanding, we shall present in this paper
Collingwood's discourse on the three-fold meanings of history, which
reveals three specific kinds of intellectual commitment, which are
conditioned by three ways of instantiating self-understanding.

Meanings of History

The three meanings of history according to Collingwood are as
follows: scissors and paste, critical, and scientific. In The Idea of
History (1946), each class of history is reflective of an
epistemologically oriented kind of commitment. This means that each
kind of history stands for a privileged standard of truth or meaning.

Scissors and paste history believes in one thing: the testimony of an
authority. Historical truth, in this respect, is defined according to
the authority's position. Since the historian finds no fault in the
perspective of the authority, he is convinced that it is his calling
to strengthen established historical truths or to coincide with
traditionally accepted historical claims. Otherwise, the results of
his investigations shall be categorized as false and misleading. With
the framework of scissors and paste history, we are of the opinion
that a historical contribution means that the historian presents a
new way of preserving traditionally accepted historical claims. Thus
it makes sense why this type of history is called scissors and paste.
Collingwood holds that the name literally stands for the process of
combining and assimilating various ready-made historical claims. The
historian, in using this approach, considers it his task to master
the craft of tailoring his position to the known and established
positions (Ibid., 257). This is the epistemological standard that the
scissors and paste approach values and sustains.

Collingwood also notes that it was only in the seventeenth century
that an innovative conception of historical method unfolded. More
specifically, the historians of the seventeenth century did
something, which the scissors and paste historian considered
inappropriate, they challenged the authenticity of established
historical claims. The positions of the authorities in history were
questioned and assessed against this query: How can we verify the
authenticity of an established historical claim? Armed with this
question, the historian evaluates whether a historical fact is
authentic or not. From an obedient historian, he is now critical of
ready-made claims in history. Thus this paved way for a new kind of
history: critical.

However, a closer analysis shall reveal that critical history still
works within the scissors and paste framework. How is this possible?
If you look into the question of the critical historian, he is still
working within the scope of the established historical positions. He
is still employing the ready-made historical statements as the
subject of critical investigation (Ibid., 258). The available
historical positions, on this view, function as the data of
historical analysis. If the historian establishes the authenticity of
a traditional historical stance, it is listed again in the roster of
historical claims. If it has been established that the traditional
view has no basis, it is re-classified and relegated into the
category of opinion. Although the epistemological frame for the
critical phase is still scissors and paste, its contribution lies in
its capacity to generate questions. Here-on, the critical historian
is at the disposal of another style of history which may lead him to
discover not just another approach to truth-making. More importantly,
he might comprehend a unique way of asking questions.

Another way of doing history is comparable to a modern
archaeologist's method of conducting historical investigation:
scientific. Instead of excavating and gathering retrieved materials
from a site, Collingwood holds that the modern archaeologist, before
he begins his research, formulates a set of guide questions. The
pre-formulated inquiry functions as a filter through which the
excavated entities are read and interpreted. This means that the
questions brought into the investigation determines the direction of
the research. This archaeological framework of doing research serves
as a model of the modern meaning of historical method. Instead of
merely arranging, or criticizing available and ready-made historical
positions, the scientific historian creates his own historical
stance. He accomplishes this by forcing the objects of his research
to respond to the questions that he has in mind. The modern historian
does not wait for his subject-matter to unfold a historical truth. He
forces them to answer his questions.

Like the modern scientist, the scientific historian does not simply
wait to discover what the unearthed artifacts suggest. He is equipped
with a question, which he uses as his leverage in demanding nature
that she replies to his inquiries. This is the basis of a new
epistemology. The new historian, in this sense, is definitely
prepared and knows his agenda. Such that before he ventures into a
site, he reflects on the different possibilities that his future
investigation could unravel. It should be noted here that the role
and relevance of questions in any study is shared by Francis Bacon.
Bacon holds that instead of waiting to see how nature unfolds, the
scientist must put nature to question. In consonance with Bacon's
position, Collingwood maintains that the scientific approach puts
nature to the question. He tortures her by experiment in order to
wring from her answers to his own questions, so history finds its
proper method when the historian puts his authorities in the
witness-box. By cross-questioning, he also extorts from them
information which in their original statements they have withheld,
either because they did not wish to give it or because they did not
possess it. (Ibid., 237)

Meanings of History: A Case of Gradation

Given the three meanings of history, our next discussion shall focus
on the kind of order/ hierarchy that we can apply to the meanings of
history. This sense of ordering is done so we can assess and present
the weaknesses and strengths that each of the three historical
meanings possesses. This effort to subject the meanings to a scale is
reflective of Collingwood's the scale of forms (Collingwood, 1933).
Our initial thesis for this concern is that Collingwood arranges the
three meanings of history in this order: scissors and paste as the
lowest, followed by the critical approach, and the scientific
approach as the highest meaning of history to date. Let us see why
such a scale is proposed and present the possible reasons behind such
an arrangement.

The scissors and paste approach stands as one stable idea of the
genus history. As a member of the philosophical scale of history, it
reflects how the human mind once interpreted the meaning of
historical thinking. The scissors and paste approach, it can be
recalled, demands that historical positions must ultimately coincide
with the historical claims of the so-called authorities. Any
contradiction to existing and accepted historical truths is relegated
to the limbo of meaningless utterances. This stance of the scissors
and paste historian, however, occupies the lowest part in the scale
of historical thinking. Being the lowest, nevertheless, does not mean
that it is entirely wrong and useless. Even the most incorrect view
holds certain grains of truth. The scissors and paste paradigm has
certain strengths and positive sides to it. Critical history, being
the higher species of thought than the scissors and paste approach,
has the task to appropriate its strengths and overcome or rectify its
limitations. This means that we can assess scissors and paste from the
lens of the critical approach to history.

As the lowest part of the scale, the limitation of the scissors and
past approach is the belief that it is the best instantiation of
history. Critical history, being the higher species of thought,
perceives the scissors and paste historian as not autonomous. The
scissors and past historian is obliged to follow, restate, and
strengthen the traditional positions determined by the so-called
authorities in history. This is a perceived weakness which critical
history shall try to address. But what is its possible strength?
Since the scissors and paste approach is obedient, its strength lies
in its stress for comprehension. This means that a good historian has
to be as informed as possible of the foundations, and capacities that
the accepted truth claims hold. This is a task that requires focus
and passion. Moreover, this is the strength that a scissors and past
historian can be proud of. In an analogical sense, the scissors and
paste historian is a well-informed slave.

Since critical history prioritizes authenticity among its other
concerns, this notion of history provides a kind of leverage in
determining which historical statement is true or false. Once the
authenticity of a historical claim is established, the critical
historian may conclude that he has successfully undertaken the
historical investigation. This is the merit that distinguishes and
elevates the critical historian compared to the scissors and paste
method. Thus it is through such sense that critical history is higher
than the scissors and paste approach. But building on the strength of
the scissors and paste, the critical historian also values
comprehension. He knows that he has to pay extra attention to what he
thinks he has understood so he can be disposed to questions that can
challenge patronized truth claims. Is traditional truth really true?
Give me the evidence and let us see if truth will still be the same.
This is perhaps a line of reasoning which crosses the mind of the
critical historian every now and then.

But because the critical historian utilizes the core of the scissors
and paste paradigm, established historical positions, he is actually
also preserving its strength and its weakness. How is this so? In
reconfiguring ready-made claims in history, the critical historian
fundamentally builds on the presence and pool of historical claims
that are already available and given. The critical historian, like
the historian using scissors and paste method, begins his
investigation with traditional claims. He sees the archaeology of
historical knowledge already filled-up. His only difference is that
he elevates the authenticity criterion as the lens through which the
veracity of the ready-made and traditional historical claims is
determined. This is the basis of the critical historian's strength;
and interestingly, it shares with the weakness of scissors and paste,
ready-made information.

Is critical history the highest species of understanding in the genus
of historical thinking? The scientific historian thinks otherwise.
Scientific history holds that it is a higher species of thought,
since it can address the errors and limitations of critical history.
More specifically, the scientific historian points out that critical
history still work within the scope of the scissors and paste
approach. This is the main error that permeates the method of
critical history. Scientific history holds that the so-called
autonomy of critical history is not genuine. The main reason that
backs up such a claim is that the critical historian still makes use
of previously held historical positions. Critical history does not
really produce new historical claims. Its method of doing history
simply isolates perceived inauthentic positions from authentic ones
in history. In this respect, the critical historian is still working
within the familiar territory of available historical positions.

The scientific historian's unique way of doing history lies in its
attempt to answer a question or sets of questions as he begins and
continues an investigation in history. In this regard, the scientific
historian's question carves the path towards and through which the
historical project progresses. He is not assuming that there are
ready-made historical claims. Nothing is ready-made in the eyes of
the scientific historian. Hence, unlike critical history, the
scientific historian does not simply limit himself to ready-made
claims. He expects himself to formulate new entries in the
archaeology of historical truths as he remains cognizant that it is
to such end that his questions serve. A question, therefore,
conditions the possibility of the scientific historian's freedom.
This is because the inquiry expresses what the historian specifically
intends to know and the conclusion that he hopes to arrive at.

In view of the foregoing, the scientific historian is not a slave to
established historical positions. He enjoys a genuine and
comprehended sense of autonomy as he clearly understands that it is
his queries that shape the contours and processes in reconstructing a
past event. Thus the scientific historian does not aim at repeating
and repackaging what has been said by famed authorities in history.
His real aim is to force historical artifacts to respond to his
inquiries. In so doing, he does not simply wait for historical truths
to unfold. He makes them as he verifies whether certain objects can
clarify his questions. It is the historian who decides the path of
the research and distinguishes whether an object can or cannot answer
a particular question in history (Collingwood, 1946: 273).

The Goals of History

First, Autonomy: In The Idea of History (1946) Collingwood identifies
two autonomous characters of scientific-history: the first has to do
with the notion that historical thought is a science of its own kind,
while the second pertains to the characteristic of historical thought
as a form of rational action which builds its own world of human
affairs, Res Gestae or a world that reason creates in its own way
(Ibid., 318-319).

The initial sense of autonomy marks history as a systematic and
logical field of study. The structure of its system is configured by
the following crucial elements: the question that a research tries to
address, the construed evidence, and the logical interpolation given
the verified nodal points. The independence of history is conditioned
by the presence of the foregoing elements. The scientific historian,
to be true to his name, has to carefully take into account the kind
of question he is asking. This means that the historian has an idea
or two of what he intends to find and discover.

Given the stress placed on the inquiry, the historian is poised to
evaluate the possible evidence to hopefully substantiate the
perceived claims of his study. His question, disguised in his
hypothesis, delimits the terrain of the research. In this way, the
study becomes scientific as the historian declares that he knows what
he intends to find. The role of the inquiry in the autonomy of the
research is, therefore, not to be underestimated. We can even hold
that a question is a sufficient condition of history's autonomy such
that in the absence of the question, the historian's research ceases
to be scientific. History becomes a mere shadow play. The historian,
in this regard, is scissors and paste, who is confined to the
superficial aim of reiterating historical truths pronounced and
perpetuated by tradition and the so-called authorities in the
discipline of history and fields engaged in truth-making.

With the question, the scientific historian is always ready to look
for concrete entities that can serve as evidence or nodal points for
the investigation. The evidence, from the question's consideration,
is construed or chosen as that which can address the demands of the
inquiry. The evidence or the nodal point acts as delimitations of the
research. They sort of identify the location or context where the
raised question revolves. This also explains why the evidence is
already treated as answer to the question, since the evidence makes
us realize that the inquiry of the research is a historical question
that must be asked if ever one intends to understand what an act of
thought means.

Since history is an account of human acts, it is fundamentally a
reconstruction of how the human mind once thought of the world and of
himself. This means that scientific history maps out the thoughts and
activities of the human mind including the difficulties that it once
dealt with and the solutions that it tried to adopt. In such a case,
historical truth does not only pertain to how individuals understood
their situations; it is also a representation of the thinking life of
a community. This makes historical knowledge a countenance of the
communal mind. As Res Gestae, it is a world built and organized by
reason. No other field of study provides a scientific account of how
man once thought of himself and of the world (Collingwood, 1999: 46).

Second, Progress: In history, progress is demonstrated in the
historian's capacity to separately re-enact two diverging acts of
thought. For instance, if a historian wishes to successfully compare
a revolutionary life from a life lived in a democratic form of
government, the historian should at least have similar experiences to
both ways of life. The role of experience is underlined, since it
serves as the mind's access to the two forms of government. If he has
been or is disposed to the two ways of life, historical reconstruction
becomes possible. This is because his experience allows the historian
to discover the merits and demerits of each form of life. If he
chooses the revolutionary life, the historian knows that he has
chosen the better. This is the meaning of progress in historical
thought as the historian eventually encounters a discovery built on
his comparative study. Meaning, it is the historian who reaches the
insight that between the two forms of government, it is not to be
interpreted as a matter of replacement between the bad and the good.
Choosing in historical thinking is opting for the good and the better
-- not just the good (Collingwood, 1946: 326). In this respect, the
historical reconstruction has equipped the historian himself as he
discovered the gains and losses when he chooses one act of thought
over another. Progress sets in the context of arriving at a better
comprehension of the two acts of thought.

The second meaning of progress happens when historical re-enactment
includes a wider thinking experience. The project to reconstruct a
period of thought, that is to say, Medieval Period, can well
elucidate this point. To understand medieval thinking from the modern
point of view, the historian is expected not to conclude that one
period is better than another. It is practically impossible to have a
fair assessment of two expansive periods of historical thought. If the
historian winds up his investigation saying that one historical phase
is better than another, his conclusion is not marked by achievement
but by failure. This is because underneath the historian's
pronouncement, there actually lies the practical incapability to
re-enact the past actions of all individuals in one whole historical
period. It is also quite problematic to gather all the necessary
evidences and to have all the right questions in mind to
appropriately reconstruct the past actions in a historical phase.
Progress in history, in this regard, is to be interpreted as an
admission of humility, the realization of the vastness of a
historical period and the limitations of an individual's capacity for
historical reconstruction. Thus any distinction between a great period
and a poor phase in the history of thought is an ill-based

For instance, the so-called Dark Ages in the history of philosophy is
due to the fact that the medieval way of thinking remains to be
adequately re-enacted and understood in our minds. When the historian
falls outside of a historical experience, he either can re-enact the
thoughts or not. If the latter case is true, the historian is usually
tempted to classify a phase in history as primitive. In contrast, the
phase of thought, which he is able to re-enact, is the civilized one.
Thus any comparison between a primitive and a civilized community is
to be regarded as a reflection of the extent of the capacity of the
mind of the historian, which means that the analysis manifests the
mind of the historian himself (Collingwood, 1946: 327).

In re-enacting previous thought experiences, the historian is in a
good position to understand the problems revolving around past
thought experiences. He can evaluate the effectiveness of the offered
solutions and study their strengths and weaknesses. This also means
that the historian preserves the link between past and present
thoughts. He strengthens the historical claim that the past lives in
the present. The past is reinterpreted from the standpoint of a
present and peculiar thinking experience. In so doing, the historian
creates and carves a constructive and critical progress. It has to be
constructive, since it builds on the experiences of the past, thereby
continuing the link between past and present acts of thought.
Moreover, it has to be labeled as critical, since the present
thinking experience considers some aspects of previous acts of
thought insufficient in addressing certain problems in the history of
thought (Ibid., 334).

Third, Self-knowledge: An important gain in re-enacting a past act of
thought is self-knowledge. When the historian re-enacts a past act of
thought, the capacities, strengths and limitations, of his mind are
unraveled. If the historian is successful in re-enacting a past act
of thought, the achievement speaks of the strength of his mind. If
the process of re-enacting a past act of thought is problematic, the
difficulty can be attributed to a weak thinking capacity or the
unhealthy habits of the mind (Collingwood, 1946: 219). This makes
self-knowledge an important dimension in the critical activity of
historical thinking, a self-directed type of critique (Rubinoff,

Since the historian can re-enact the past acts of thought of another
individual, the criticism can also be other-directed. In this
respect, historical re-enactment can be used to gauge the strengths
and weaknesses of the mind of another individual. This type of
critique is termed as spectator's criticism. It is the historian's
way of evaluating an individual's reason(s) in choosing to act in a
specific manner, or the possible causes for failing to do so. The
self-directed and other-directed criticisms of historical thinking
are challenges to a scientist-historian who desires to deepen his
capacity for historical knowledge and to expand his capability to
learn insights from the acts of other individuals. His positive
outlook towards such criticisms makes an important presupposition in
historical thinking evident: thought is a corporate possession.
Because by thinking historically, the historian confirms his position
as the heir of corporate historical knowledge (Collingwood, 1946: 226).

In re-enacting his past actions and the past acts of others, he
strengthens the link between his present thoughts and to past act of
thought. He also affirms the fact that his thoughts are, in an
important sense, built upon previous thinking experiences. The
historian becomes disposed to this insight: that by thinking
historically, thought lives and continues to exist.

Moreover, the historian who faces the dual challenge, self-directed
and other-directed criticism, of the theory of re-enactment, is in a
special way creating himself. He does this by affirming a state of
mind wherein he is most receptive to what he can discover in himself,
in the capacities of his intellect, in knowing the benefits of his
past acts of thought, and in looking forward to learn something from
the past acts of other individuals (Collingwood, 1946: 288).

Conclusion: Kinds of Intellectual Commitment

Collingwood's notion of history can serve as a location where we can
identify three possible kinds of intellectual commitment which the
human mind can demonstrate. When gleaned from the scissors and paste
approach, one sense of commitment stands out, faithfulness to and
comprehension of ready-made information. This is one brand of
solidarity. Unfortunately, this brand of solidarity is the lowest,
since thinking is limited to repetition and comprehension of existing
thoughts. Instead of developing and nourishing the mind's capacity for
critique and innovation, the scissors and paste is content with the
familiar domain.

For the critical approach, the sense of intellectual solidarity that
is privileged is the critical eye in determining or investigating the
authenticity of sources of truth. While this approach is highly
interested to challenge dominant forms of discourse, it remains
oblivious to its responsibility to be at the forefront of
knowledge-production. This means that while the critical approach
interests itself in challenging the notions of truth, its goal
becomes its own prison in the sense that the critical historian has
forgotten how to own the task of developing a system of thought or
building a point of view. In other words, the critical approach has
mastered the craft of challenging truth-authorities without even
knowing and experiencing the struggles and difficulties in
fashioning/ carving a possible intellectual/ theoretical vantage
point. Thus the kind of solidarity that grows out of the mind-set of
the critical historian is to master its de-constructing rhetoric.
Consequently, its main limitation remains: it does not have the
commitment to cross the bridge from being a critique to being a
proponent of intellectual novelty.

With the scientist-historian, we can propose that its intellectual
solidarity is the ideal, since its thinking disposition allows it to
attain, and be a witness, thereof, of the three-fold goals of
history: autonomy, progress and self-knowledge: First, with autonomy,
he has formulated and owned the questions that guide the direction of
his investigation. The question, for the scientist-historian, is a
responsibility that he is willing to face and carry. Since he has
this mature perspective on the role of questions, he is excited to
make thinking as a platform of emerging intellectual questions.
Second, with progress, the scientist-historian makes himself
receptive to better ways of thinking. He accomplishes this by looking
into the strengths and limitations of his present mind-set. Conscious
that he operates according to a paradigm, he is fascinated over the
possibility that he will reach higher heights in understanding his
intellectual biases as in the case of privileged ways of thinking.
Lastly, with self-knowledge, the scientist-historian gives life to
his dream of contributing something to the processes of truth-making.
This is the foundation for this brand of solidarity. In so doing, the
scientist-historian is not just eager to transcend his own thinking
capacities. His endeavor to think well is based on the motivation to
find new ways of thinking (Pavo, 2009: 131).


Collingwood, R.G. (1939). An autobiography. Oxford: Clarendon.

_________ (1933). An essay on philosophical method. Oxford: Clarendon.

_________ (1946). The idea of history. Oxford: Oxford.

_________ (1999). The principles of history. Oxford: Oxford.

Pavo, R. (2009). Collingwood's logic of question and answer: Its
possible contribution to a philosophy of education. Hapag, 6 (1),

Rubinoff, D. (1991). History and human nature: Reflections on R.G.
Collingwood. International studies in philosophy, 23 (3), 75-89.

(c) Raymundo R. Pavo 2013

Email: rpavo77@yahoo.com



     WE COME from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we
     call the luminous interval life. As soon as we are born the
     return begins, at once the setting forth and the coming
     back; we die in every moment. Because of this many have
     cried out: The goal of life is death! But as soon as we are
     born we begin the struggle to create, to compose, to turn
     matter into life; we are born in every moment. Because of
     this many have cried out: The goal of ephemeral life is
     immortality! In the temporary living organism these two
     streams collide: (a) the ascent toward composition, toward
     life, toward immortality; (b) the descent toward
     decomposition, toward matter, toward death. Both streams
     well up from the depths of primordial essence. Life
     startles us at first; it seems somewhat beyond the law,
     somewhat contrary to nature, somewhat like a transitory
     counteraction to the dark eternal fountains; but deeper
     down we feel that Life is itself without beginning, an
     indestructible force of the Universe. Otherwise, from where
     did that superhuman strength come which hurls us from the
     unborn to the born and gives us -- plants, animals, men --
     courage for the struggle? But both opposing forces are
     holy. It is our duty, therefore, to grasp that vision which
     can embrace and harmonize these two enormous, timeless, and
     indestructible forces, and with this vision to modulate our
     thinking and our action.
        Prologue, The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises

This article particularly focuses on the Scottish philosopher David
Hume's treatment of the problem of the probability of miracles in a
write-up about the said issue in his monumental work, An Essay
Concerning Human Understanding [http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/
ugcm/3ll3/hume/enquiry.pdf], Section X, pp. 75-91. Directly
related to that is an earlier one, 'Of Probability'
Section VI, pp. 40-55, likewise found in the same volume, which
defines our reference point.

Basically, we do affirm in this undertaking the probability of
miracles which faces the challenges posed by the Humean attack. Thus,
its ultimate concern is to draw a criterion of probability that would
hold fast the certainty of the claim that miracles have occurred and
are probable to occur. However, it is presumed that we initially
distinguish between antecedent probability of chances and historical

Miracles, when viewed in the light of the criterion of antecedent
probability of chances, are obviously highly improbable in the sense
that miracles happen more rarely than other events. It is, therefore,
inconceivable within the span of normal spatio-temporal succession of
events that a miracle will occur at a specific place and time.
However, this improbability does not lead us to a state of unbelief
when a miracle happens for, all events that occurred within the scope
and limits of what is commonly regarded as 'natural' were once
improbable. It was then highly improbable for one who believed that
the earth was flat; that sailing continuously westward or eastward
would ultimately head back to the very starting point. But when it
happened it was not incredible.

This article does not deal with probability via the criterion of
antecedent probability of chances but through the historical
probability of miracles. For simply Hume is also concerned with the
latter kind in his essay on miracles. Hume's essay, 'Of Miracles,' is
the point of departure of the popular belief that 'historical
statements about miracles are the most intrinsically improbable of
all historical statements' Richard L. Purtill, C.S. Lewis' Case for
the Christian Faith. 2004, Ignatius Press, p.85. In 'Of Probability,'
Hume says:

     There is certainly a probability, which arises from a
     superiority of chances on any side; and according as this
     superiority increases, and surpasses the opposite chances,
     the probability receives a proportionable increase, and
     begets still a higher degree of belief or assent to that
     side, in which we discover the superiority.

In other words, Hume asserts that probability depends upon the
succession of regularities whose root can be traced through
similarities in what have occurred in the past. This means that the
notion of probability is tied up with the 'majority votes of our past
experiences' C. S. Lewis, Miracles (Glasgow: Fontana Books, 1976), p.
105. When we have come to know in the past that event A is the cause
in another similar situation where event B is to be an effect, it is
customarily inferred that event A is the most probable cause. From
the succession of similar regularities of the same nature, we affirm
the notion of probability as we fortify and confirm belief to the
imagination that in future events, event B is always preceded by
event A.

Hence, we are confronted by two related ideas, probability and
regularity of nature's course. The former rests on the 'majority vote
of past experiences'; while the latter, on the 'unanimous vote'. The
regularity of nature's course according to Hume is 'firm and
unalterable'. The uniformity experience of the regularity of nature's
course is used by Hume as a counter-instance against the probability
of miracles. He strongly asserts that miracles are the most
improbable events because of the very notion laid down by the
uniformity of nature as we experience it.

C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, reacts to such contention:

     Now of course we must agree with Hume that, if there is
     absolutely 'uniform experience' against miracles, if, in
     other words, they have never happened, why then they never
     have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to
     be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are
     false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false
     only if we know already that miracles have never occurred.
     In fact, we are arguing in a circle.
     Miracles, p. 106

The notion of probability comes out of human experience as he
observes relationship between events. Probability is within the
landscape of experience. But the notion of probability presupposes
the principle of the uniformity of nature; without this very
principle, our observation of varied events in nature would not allow
us to infer relations among events and would not ascertain us the fact
that there is a sort of regularities in the occurrence of these
events. Thus the principle of the uniformity of nature lies outside
our experience of events and probable events, that is to say, it
cannot be known through experience. The idea of probability rests on
the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature.

Nevertheless, we must further categorize the principle of the
uniformity of nature in relation to the idea of probability because
the principle is viewed in two different conflicting manners. On the
one hand, there are those who view the principle operating in a
closed system; on the other hand, there are those who believe that it
operates in a limited system. If the principle is fitted in a closed
system, then the idea of probability or improbability is
inconceivable, nothing is probable or improbable. Everything operates
like a machine, and the succession of related events in absolute
regularity cannot be said to be possible or impossible to happen in
the future because it is already absolutely certain that it will
happen. The notion of improbability is likewise meaningless because
no instance that flows along the line of uniform regularity can be
said to be improbable. Others are absolutely inconceivable beyond the
limits of the closed system.

Unfortunately, Hume believes in the operation of the Principle of the
Uniformity of Nature in a Closed System. He says that the unanimous
vote of past experiences that support the regularity of nature's
course is 'firm and unalterable'. His contention is further
strengthened by his affirmative response to the question, 'Is the
course of nature absolutely uniform?'

But to hold the view that nature operates uniformly in a closed
system is to dehumanize the human being because the very principle
that asserts this view takes everything as a machine. The human being
is not a machine for 'man knows about man, and there is evidence to
the cold fact that man knows man.' Francis Schaeffer, He is There and
He is not Silent (Tyndale House, 1972), p. 63 Who is able to perceive
the relation among events in a regular uniform course? No one except
the human being, never a machine. From such perception of order, who
conceives laws to serve future purposes? No one else except the human

The human being is not a machine because a machine has a totality; it
is complete. A machine is a sort of 'facticity' or a 'thing-in-itself'
but the human being is a 'possibility,' a 'thing-for-itself' who
continuously struggles in the moment-to-moment reality of her or his
existence cf. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay in
Phenomenological Ontology (Citadel Press, 2001). If the human being
is a machine, then s/he would not act in response to any situation
that affects his or her very existence because such responsibility
involves sensibility and sensitivity and a machine doesn't have such

The human being is, therefore, open to changes. Otherwise,
responsibility, sensitivity, and sensibility are useless. The
possibility of change enables the human being to adapt his personal
existence in varied situations. In doing so, the human being guided
by his values toward success employs creativity. The human being can
create responsibly, and creative responsibility is a characteristic
of human personality; nothing impersonal does have such
characteristic. Thus creative responsibility and human personality
cannot exist from an impersonal beginning; they must have a creative
as well as personal origin.

But such conception cannot be accepted within the limits of a closed
system; rather, it is the very core of the other view, the Principle
of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This locates the
foundation of Hume's idea of probability in a stalemate. In the long
run, the idea will ultimately be annihilated by the seed of
destruction spawned in its very own foundation. If we believe Hume,
then, what is probability or improbability?

The genuine notion of probability emerges only from the presupposed
Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This
necessitates the presence of a perceiving
rational-creative-responsible-personal being to comprehend order and
regularity in natural occurrences. If we take the other principle,
the human being is inevitably regarded as a machine. Who will then
comprehend the nature and infer the notion of probability from it?

Probability must, therefore, rest upon the Principle of the
Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System. This system is open to
re-ordering by the human being and by the Primal Life-Force, the elan
vital (cf. Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution), that emanates from
'the depths of primordial essence' (in the Prologue of Nikos
Kazantzakis' The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises
[http://www.angel.net/~nic/askitiki.html]). It is the source from
which the human being's humanity or personality emanates and whose
supreme creativity birthed nature, real and concrete. Since this
primal life-force is the source of humanity's being, its presence can
be inferred from human freedom that is capable to re-order nature as
it operates in a limited system. Though the very act itself is
limited by the bounds of what is natural. This power that has given
the human being the freedom to act upon natural circumstances, open
to changes has likewise in itself the freedom in the highest order to
act upon the course of nature. It is the one that created the real and
concrete facts that combine to form states of affairs in nature.

If we infer the idea of probability from the core of this foundation,
then miracles are probable. This is 'miracle' in the sense C. S. Lewis
defines the term as 'interference with Nature by supernatural power'

Thus the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature in a Limited System
provides us with a strong foundation that miracles are very much
probable to occur because the very system itself, the limited system,
opens up possibilities not only for the human being but more
significantly for the primal source of the uniformity of nature and
of humanity's being itself.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa 2013

Email: ruelfpepa@yahoo.com

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