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Abstract

Collingwood has failed to make a significant impact in the history of twentieth century philosophy either because he has been dismissed as a dusty old idealist committed to the very metaphysics the analytical school was trying to leave behind, or because his later work has been interpreted as advocating the dissolution of philosophy into history. I argue that Collingwood's key philosophical works are a sustained attempt to defend the view that philosophy is an autonomous discipline with a distinctive domain of inquiry and that Collingwood's attempt to defend the autonomy of philosophy is intimately connected to his defence of intensional notions against the kind of meaning scepticism which came to prevail from the 1920s. I defend the philosophical claim that there is a third way between the idealist metaphysics with which Collingwood is often associated and the neo-empiricist agenda which characterised analytic philosophy in mid-century by defending the hermeneutic thesis that Collingwood's work is a sustained attempt to articulate a conception of philosophy as an epistemologically first science. Since there is a via media between the old metaphysics and the new empiricism there is no need to choose between a certain kind of armchair metaphysics and a scientifically informed ontology.