Thursday, August 17, 2017

Collingwood on Magic, Tools, and Power

R.G. Collingwood 
In the following quote, Collingwood furthers his discussion about how tools are more than something of utilitarian value. Tools provide status and protection, whether it’s a housewife’s [sic] Hoover or a man’s new, fast motorcar. Here he goes into the employment of others as “tools” and its relation to power. By the way, I put one sentence in italics for emphasis. I trust you’ll know whom I had in mind when I read that. 

The use of human labor, hired or servile, gives the same kind of feeling as the use of tools; for, as Aristotle puts it, the slave is a kind of living tool. And this feeling underlies our conviction that having servants to do your work is grand, doing it for yourself undignified. It underlies the fascination of ‘business’, which his not (as the utilitarian rationalization pretends) a mean to getting rich, but a way of achieving power over other men. It underlies the desire for political power and victory in war. Where power over men is inordinately desired, one may be sure that those who desire it are driven by fear of their own weakness, and ready to go to any length in the search for a delusive reassurance. But men are harder to control than machines, having wills of their own,; so, whereas the feebler souls amoung ourselves forget their self-dissatisfaction in the cult of machinery, the stronger do it by becoming kinds of business, political bosses, or dictators. But here again, as in the desire for clothes and tools, the impulse in itself is universal and healthy. It is only when it is disowned by a world of obsessed utilitarianism that it becomes a madness.’ [Emphasis added.]

R.G. Collingwood, The Philosophy of Enchantment: Studies in Folktale, Cultural Criticism, and Anthropology (ed. David Boucher, Wendy James, & Phillip Smallwood) (2005), 215-216. 

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