british idealism


  • Doctrines of early British idealism so provoked the young Cambridge philosophers G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell that they began a new philosophical tradition, analytic philosophy.

  • However, this situation changed in 1865 with the publication of James Hutchison Stirling’s book The Secret of Hegel, which is believed to have won significant converts in

  • British idealism largely developed from the German idealist movement—particularly such philosophers as Immanuel Kant and G. W. F. Hegel, who were characterised by Green, among
    others, as the salvation of British philosophy after the alleged demise of empiricism.

  • However, from the 1990s on, there has been a significant revival in interest in these ideas, as evidenced by, for instance, by the founding of the Michael Oakeshott Association,
    and renewed attention to the work of Collingwood, Green, and Bosanquet.

  • Thomas Carlyle did much to bring awareness of German idealism to the English-speaking world, and his own contributions were also highly influential on British idealism.

  • But few of the British idealists adopted Hegel’s philosophy wholesale, and his most significant writings on logic seem to have found no purchase whatsoever in their thought.

  • The hold of British idealism in the United Kingdom weakened when Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, who were educated in the British idealist tradition, turned against it.

  • In the late 1950s G. R. G. Mure, in his Retreat From Truth (Oxford 1958), criticized Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and aspects of analytic philosophy from an idealist point
    of view.

  • The British Idealists did not, however, reify the State in the manner that Hegel apparently did; Green in particular spoke of the individual as the sole locus of value and
    contended that the State’s existence was justified only insofar as it contributed to the realization of value in the lives of individual persons.

  • “[5] On its political side, the British idealists were largely concerned to refute what they regarded as a brittle and “atomistic” form of individualism, as espoused by e.g.


Works Cited

[‘Griffin, Nicholas (2013). “Russell and Moore’s Revolt against British Idealism”, in The Oxford handbook of the history of analytic philosophy, edited by Michael Beaney. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 383–406. ISBN 9780199238842.
2. ^ Jordan,
Alexander (2019-09-20). “The Contribution of Thomas Carlyle to British Idealism, c. 1880–1930”. Scottish Historical Review. 98: 439–468. doi:10.3366/shr.2019.0428. S2CID 204477593.
3. ^ William J. Mander, British Idealism: A History, Oxford University
Press, 2011, pp. 17–18.
4. ^ Weiss, Frederick (July 1971), “Recent Work on Hegel”, North American Philosophical Publications, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 203–222
5. ^ Harris, Henry (2007), “Would Hegel Be A ‘Hegelian’ Today?”, Cosmos and History: The
Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 2–3, pp. 5–15
2. Tyler, Colin. “‘All history is the history of thought’: competing British idealist historiographies.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28.3 (2020): 573-593; focus
on T.H. Green, Edward Caird, and F.H. Bradley.
3. Sorley, William Ritchie. 1920. A History of English Philosophy.
1. An idiosyncratic account of English-language philosophy with an emphasis on idealism, later republished as A History of British
Philosophy to 1900. online
4. ‘British Absolute Idealism: From Green to Bradley’, in Jeremy Dunham, Iain Hamilton Grant and Sean Watson (eds), Idealism (Acumen, 2011).
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