The Living Past

It is argued that although this book will be of interest to any scholar interested in Croce, Gentile, or de Ruggiero, it will be of particular interest to those interested in R. G. Collingwood, for the ultimate focus of the book is upon Collingwood's philosophy and how it developed in relation to the work of the Italian idealists. This is a subject that has not previously been investigated in any depth. Peters argues that the basic idea that unites all four philosophers is that “the past is not dead, but living”; but what distinguishes Collingwood's philosophy from the Italians' is the idea, and its justification, that “the past can live on even if we are not aware of it.” Collingwood explored and developed this idea in reaction to the “presentism” of the Italians, a position that is most obvious in the philosophy of Gentile but that is also to be found, albeit less obviously, in the philosophies of Croce and de Ruggiero. Without casting doubt upon the influence of the Italian idealists on Collingwood, it is suggested in this review that, as well as explaining that influence, Peters's book also throws Collingwood's similarities with Oakeshott into relief; by contrast with Collingwood, there is no evidence that Oakeshott ever read the Italian idealists.