W. J. Mander presents the first ever synoptic history of BritishIdealism, the school of thought which dominated English-language philosophy from the 1860s to the early 20th century. He restores to its proper place this neglected period of philosophy, introducing the exponents of Idealism and explaining its distinctive concepts and doctrines.
Idealism became the dominant philosphical school of thought in late nineteenth-century Britain. In this original and stimulating study, Sandra den Otter examines its roots in Greek and German thinking and locates it among the prevalent methodologies and theories of the period: empiricism and positivism, naturalism, evolution, and utilitarianism. In particular, she sets it in the context of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debate about a science of society and the contemporary preoccupation with `community'.
[INTRODUCTION] Like the terms 'dialectic', 'Aufhebung' (or 'sublation'), and 'Geist', the term 'concrete universal' has a distinctively Hegelian ring to it. But unlike these others, it is particularly associated with the British strand in Hegel's reception history, as having been brought to prominence by some of the central British Idealists. It is therefore perhaps inevitable that, as their star has waned, so too has any use of the term, while an appreciation of the problematic that lay behind it (...) has seemingly vanished: if the British Idealists get any sort of mention in a contemporary metaphysics book (which is rarely), it will be Bradley's view of relations or truth that is discussed, not their theory of universals, so that the term has a rather antique air, buried in the dusty volumes of Mind from the turn of the nineteenth century. This is not surprising: the episode known as BritishIdealism can appear to be a period that is lost to us, in its language, points of historical reference (Lotze, Sigwart, Jevons), and central preoccupations (the Absolute). Even while interest in Hegel continues to grow, interest in his Logic has grown more slowly than in the rest of his work, with Book III of the Logic remaining as the daunting peak of that challenging text - while it is here that the British Idealists focussed their attention and claimed to have uncovered that 'exotic' but 'vanished specimen', the concrete universal. Finally, as the trend of reading Hegel pushes ever further in a non-metaphysical direction, it might be thought that the future of the concrete universal is hardly likely to be brighter than its recent past - for it may seem hard to imagine how a conception championed by the British Idealists, who were apparently shameless in their metaphysical commitments, can find favour in these more austere and responsible times. In this paper, however, I want to make a case for holding that there is something enlightening to be found in how some of the British Idealists approached the 'concrete universal', both interpretatively and philosophically. At the interpretative level, I will argue that while not everything these Idealists are taken to mean by the term is properly to be found in Hegel, their work nonetheless relates to a crucial and genuine strand in Hegel's position, so that their discussion of this issue is an important moment in the reception history of his thought. At a philosophical level, I think that the question that concerned Hegel and these British Idealists retains much of its interest, as does their shared approach to it: namely, how far does our thought involve a mere abstraction from reality, and what are the metaphysical and epistemological implications if it turns out it does not? As such, I will suggest, taking seriously what these British Idealists have to say about the concrete universal can help us both in our understanding of Hegel, and in our appreciation of the contribution Hegel's position can make to our thinking on the issues that surround this topic. (shrink)
In the early twentieth century, a rare strain of Britishidealism emerged which took Leibniz's Monadology as its starting point. This paper discusses a variant of that strain, offered by Hilda Oakeley. I set Oakeley's monadology in its philosophical context and discuss a key point of conflict between Oakeley and her fellow monadologists: the unreality of time. Oakeley argues that time is fundamentally real, a thesis arguably denied by Leibniz and subsequent monadologists, and by all other British (...) idealists. This paper discusses Oakeley's argument for the reality of time, and Oakeley's attack on the most famous account of the unreality of time offered in her day: that of J. M. E. McTaggart. I show that Oakeley's critique of McTaggart can be extended to challenge all monadologists, including that of the great monad, Leibniz himself. (shrink)
Britishidealism flourished in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. It was a movement with a lasting influence on the social and political thought of its time in particular. British idealists helped popularize the work of Immanuel Kant and G. W. F. Hegel in the Anglophone world, but they also sought to use insights from the philosophies of Kant and Hegel to help create a new idealism to address the many pressing issues of the (...) Victorian period in Britain and its aftermath. These contributions related to theories of freedom, the common good, political obligation, the state, and punishment. The British idealists also made important contributions in areas other than Hegelian scholarship and ethics, including logic, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. The movement declined by the start of World War I. This entry will highlight the most important work by British idealists themselves and by their best interpreters. Thus this entry will be grouped by individuals rather than by theme. (shrink)
British idealist aesthetics is not well known, and to the extent that it is known, it is generally through the writings of R.G. Collingwood, who is sometimes described as an idealist of the ‘third generation.’.
According to the editors of this book, “The history of philosophy as taught today is a highly selective activity. In its determination to tell a particular story, it passes over in silence large swathes of otherwise interesting philosophical work”. This claim would have been worthy of serious consideration had it been made a few decades ago—that is to say, at a time when analytic philosophy was a clearly recognizable philosophical movement. The “particular story” according to which the works of the (...)British idealists were allegedly sacrificed would then have been easily identified as the story of how the young Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore showed the absurdity involved in holding that... (shrink)
This book offers a reassessment of the political philosophy of the British Idealists, a group of once influential and now neglected nineteenth-century Hegelian philosophers, whose work has been much misunderstood. Peter Nicholson focuses on F. H. Bradley's idea of morality and moral philosophy; T. H. Green's theory of the Common Good, of the social nature of rights, of freedom, and of state interference; and Bernard Bosanquet's notorious theory of the General Will. By examining the arguments offered by the Idealists (...) and by their critics the author is able to penetrate the deep layers of hostile comment laid down by several generations of later writers and to show that these ideas, once properly understood, are not only defensible but interesting and important. (shrink)
The British Idealists were a force to be reckoned with in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until they appeared as the philosophical casualty of the Great War. This volume, part of the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, reproduces selections dealing with social and political philosophy from ten different authors of that tradition. Leading political theorist Bernard Bosanquet has three separate selections totaling fifty-three pages. T. H. Green has only one passage included here since there exists (...) a Cambridge published selection of his work put out in 1986. (shrink)
In particular, as we shall see, Collingwood is often dismissed as having held an indefensible, outmoded ‘ideal’ theory, according to which the work of art is primarily ‘mental’, while his potential role in current debates is simply ignored. I will argue that this view is largely mistaken.
The degree to which British Idealists, both Absolutists and Personalists, were influenced by evolutionary debates has been underestimated, and far from being outright opponents they developed their own particular brand in order to demonstrate the relevance of their philosophies to addressing the important issues of the day. They were opposed to naturalism, but agreed with the likes of Darwin and Spencer that nature and spirit exhibit a continuity. Where they disagreed was in the naturalistic emphasis of giving priority to (...) nature in explanation, that is, explaining the higher in terms of the lower. They also agreed with the likes of Wallace and Huxley, in giving a special place to ethics in the evolutionary process. They disagreed because of the wedge they perceived them to be driving between nature and spirit. The British Idealists begin with the principle of unity and contend that nature and spirit are continuous, and while nature is not intelligent, it is intelligible only to the human mind. Nature and Spirit are mutually dependent and to assert the reality of one over the other is to make abstractions of both. In fully acknowledging spirit in the evolutionary process they were able to reconcile their religious consciousness and the idea of freedom with the theory of evolution. (shrink)
The growing interest in the philosophy of the British Idealists required a comprehensive and accessible volume containing an anthology of their work. Boucher’s book, with its special emphasis on the moral, social and political philosophy of BritishIdealism, fills a gap in the existing literature and provides readers with the insights of such philosophers as Edward Caird, T. H. Green, F. H. Bradley, John Watson, Bernard Bosanquet, Henry Jones, D. G. Ritchie, J.H. Muirhead, Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, and (...) J.S. Mackenzie. (shrink)
It is generally acknowledged that the BritishIdealism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a significant influence in the philosophy, politics, and culture of that country. In this study, I argue that it also had a considerable impact throughout much of the English-speaking world, and beyond -- in Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa, India, and even East Asia. This idealism engaged 'local' philosophical traditions and culture, contributed to them, and sometimes led to (...) 'new' philosophies or traditions, and so may be described as a 'migrating tradition.' While the character and extent of this influence varied according to where and how it migrated, BritishIdealism can, nevertheless and in amodestway, be said to have had an 'empire'. This study, then, addresses both a historical issue and the broader philosophical question of why BritishIdealism was successful in this diaspora, and it identifies a number of features of this Idealism which may explain this. (shrink)
A new moral philosophy emerged on the British philosophical scene in the late 1870s, one referred to as the idealist ethic of social self-realization, which rapidly became the dominant mode of moral thought for over twenty years. This chapter discusses the views of the pioneers of idealist ethics, F. H. Bradley and T. H. Green.
In this original and stimulating study of Idealism, the dominant philosophical school of thought in late nineteenth-century Britain, Sandra den Otter interweaves philosophical and sociological concerns to make an important contribution to intellectual history.
ABSTRACTIt is contended that British Idealists, New Liberals and Liberal Imperialists were all in favour of imperialism, especially when it took the form of white settler communities. The concession of relative autonomy was an acknowledgement of the potential of white settler communities to go the way of America by severing their relationship with the Empire completely. Where significant differences emerge in their thinking is in relation to non-white territories in the Empire where native peoples comprised the majority, and the (...)British Government and its agents administered in trust ‘lower’ peoples on the scale of civilisation with the ostensible goal of guiding them towards self-determination in the Empire. The differences in degree of commitment to these ideals were largely expressed in terms of the pejorative categories of ‘sane’ and ‘insane’ imperialism, which were flexible and manipulated for political gain, rather than analytic precision. Liberal Imperialists and New Liberals were opposed to each other in terms of the degree to which they supported imperialism, whereas British Idealists aligned themselves on both sides of the divide. (shrink)
Despite the fact that by the end of the nineteenth century philosophically Natural Rights had been severely undermined, and that the British Idealists found anathema most of the principles upon which they relied, such theories still had a currency among some political polemicists. The Idealists retained the vocabulary and transformed the meaning to refer to those rights which it is imperative that the state or society recognise as indispensable to social existence. The criterion of such necessity was their contribution (...) to the common good. Such thinks as Green, Bosanquet, Ritchie, Jones and Watson offer a developmental view of Natural Rights, acknowledging that societies evolve giving rise to more refined versions of what constitutes the common good. While the idea of Human Rights depends upon the existence of a moral community, the common good is not necessarily judged only in relation to that community. There is nothing sacred about state borders or sovereignty, and the extension of the moral community beyond such arbitrary limits is both possible and desirable. This way of conceiving Natural Rights has become one of the dominant ways, in a variety of forms, of characterising the post 1945 Human Rights Culture. (shrink)
Although Great Britain is the country of some of the earliest contributors to aesthetics as an independent philosophical discipline the subject attracted little interest in philosophical circles towards the turn of the twentieth century. In this paper, I shall focus on Bosanquet and Collingwood. In particular, as we shall see, Collingwood is often dismissed as having held an indefensible, outmoded ‘ideal’ theory, according to which the work of art is primarily ‘mental’, while his potential role in current debates is simply (...) ignored. I will argue that this view is largely mistaken. (shrink)
Perhaps one of the most underappreciated philosophical movements is BritishIdealism. This movement arose during the latter half of the nineteenth century and began to wane after the outbreak of the First World War. BritishIdealism has produced a number of important figures, such as Bernard Bosanquet, R. G. Collingwood, F. H. Bradley and T. H. Green, as well as other important, but less well known, figures, such as J. S. Mackenzie, John Henry Muirhead and James (...) Seth. It has also given us a number of lasting philosophical ideas. (shrink)
Despite the fact that by the end of the nineteenth century philosophically Natural Rights had been severely undermined, and that the British Idealists found anathema most of the principles upon which they relied, such theories still had a currency among some political polemicists. The Idealists retained the vocabulary and transformed the meaning to refer to those rights which it is imperative that the state or society recognise as indispensable to social existence. The criterion of such necessity was their contribution (...) to the common good. Such thinks as Green, Bosanquet, Ritchie, Jones and Watson offer a developmental view of Natural Rights, acknowledging that societies evolve giving rise to more refined versions of what constitutes the common good. While the idea of Human Rights depends upon the existence of a moral community, the common good is not necessarily judged only in relation to that community. There is nothing sacred about state borders or sovereignty, and the extension of the moral community beyond such arbitrary limits is both possible and desirable. This way of conceiving Natural Rights has become one of the dominant ways, in a variety of forms, of characterising the post 1945 Human Rights Culture. r 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
The British Idealist movement flourished between the 1860s and 1920s and exerted a very significant influence in the USA, India and Canada, most notably on John Dewey and Josiah Royce. The movement also laid the groundwork for the thought of Oakeshott and Collingwood. Its leading figures – particularly Green and Caird – have left a number of complete or near complete manuscripts in various British university archives, many of which remain unpublished. This important collection widens access to this (...) unpublished material by transcribing, editing and then publishing the most significant pieces. The project focuses on the moral, political, and religious writings – the areas of most interest to scholars. This annotated, critical edition opens them up to the academic community. (shrink)
Often regarded as an aberrant phase in the history of late 19th and early 20th-century philosophy, BritishIdealism provoked a wide range of attacks and replies from all the major figures of the time, such as Sidgwick, Dewey, Broad and Russell. This work reflects the shifting intellectual boundaries of British Thought between 1860 and 1920.
In truth-functional analysis we need not worry about the purported ambiguity of the English ‘or,’ for we can assign different symbols and define each by means of a truth table. However, at least in classes in elementary logic, we often try to indicate that there is some rationale to the assignation of truth values by marshaling English disjunctive sentences which will clearly render an inclusive or an exclusive reading, without the explicit addition of one of the qualifying phrases, “or both” (...) or “but not both.” At this point one discovers people writing on logic saying quite different things about the English ‘or.’ In his Methods of Logic Quine takes the inclusive sense to be the more naturally intended and claims that “indisputable instances of the exclusive use” are rare. Yet in The Principles of Logic Bradley says that no one ever really intends to use ‘or’ in any other than an exclusive sense; and Bosanquet followed him in this. In this paper I am interested in attempting to discover why the British Idealists held that ‘or’ is always exclusive, especially in the face of various examples which, prima facie, establish both uses in English. Why would Bradley feel compelled to deny “any possible instance in which alternatives are not exclusive”? As it turns out, the position held by Bradley and Bosanquet is stronger and more interesting than one initially expects. (shrink)
Samuel Alexander was a central figure of the new wave of realism that swept across the English-speaking world in the early twentieth century. His Space, Time, and Deity (1920a, 1920b) was taken to be the official statement of realism as a metaphysical system. But many historians of philosophy are quick to point out the idealist streak in Alexander’s thought. After all, as a student he was trained at Oxford in the late 1870s and early 1880s as BritishIdealism (...) was beginning to flourish. This naturally had some effect on his philosophical outlook and it is said that his early work is overtly idealist. In this paper I examine his neglected and understudied reactions to BritishIdealism in the 1880s. I argue that Alexander was not an idealist during this period and should not be considered as part of the British Idealist tradition, philosophically speaking. (shrink)