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British Idealism$

W. J. Mander

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199559299

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199559299.001.0001

Developments in Idealist Political and Social Philosophy

(p.489) 14 Developments in Idealist Political and Social Philosophy
British Idealism

W. J. Mander (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the later developments in Idealist political philosophy. It begins with a detailed account of the political philosophy of Bernard Bosanquet examining his ideas about such concepts as the General Will, the state, freedom, and state interference and defending his account from some more common objections and misunderstandings. The chapter then traces the complex pattern of agreement, dissent, elaboration, and modification of these ideas that occurred in the work of Jones, Muirhead, and Haldane. The chapter concludes with examination of the Idealists' later views on education and on international relations.

Keywords:   Bosanquet, the General Will, Henry Jones, Haldane, education, international relations

The present chapter examines British Idealist work in political philosophy during the second half of the movement's history. There occurred no sharp break, but rather a gradual shift of emphasis as the initial work of articulating an idealist social philosophy gave way to the twin tasks of exploring in detail its practical implications and defending it against a growing number of critics. The work too became increasingly polemical. Not content simply to theorize about the society in which they found themselves, Idealists took upon themselves the duty to exhort, encourage, or inspire it to realize its greater potential.

14.1 Bernard Bosanquet

14.1.1 Political philosophy

Bosanquet's Philosophical Theory of the State, first published in 1899, may be regarded as a kind of watershed in the history of British Idealist thought on political and social matters, insofar as it drew heavily on the previous work of Green and Bradley and, achieving an almost iconic status, went on to influence thinking on these questions for years afterwards.1 In many ways it represents the highpoint of British Idealist political philosophy; more detailed and systematic than anything else before or after it.

Bosanquet himself describes his book as one of ‘social philosophy’,2 but this term calls for further consideration since, during the period under discussion, we find extreme fluidity in the terms ‘political philosophy’, ‘political science’, ‘sociology’, ‘social theory’, ‘science of society’, ‘social ethics’, and the like. We have already seen how Mackenzie urged the development of a discipline called ‘social philosophy’—distinct from yet closely connected to ethics and encompassing economics, politics, and education—which would investigate the fundamental nature and aims of society. (p.490) Bosanquet supported this ambition—he lectured first for the London Ethical Society and then for the more academic but short-lived London School of Ethics and Social Philosophy spear-headed by Muirhead3—and his Philosophical Theory of the State falls within Mackenzie's general scheme; although its focus is principally on political rather than more broadly based social questions.

But the philosophical was not the only method in vogue at the time for investigating social questions, and note must be taken of another line of tradition, most commonly called ‘sociology’, which runs from Comte (who coined the term) through Spencer to Hobhouse (who was made Britain's first professor in the subject in 1907). In his second chapter, Bosanquet seeks to bring out the limitations of, as well as to distinguish his own work from, this more empirical tradition. This he does by investigating some of the analogies its thinkers have employed. It has often been hoped that social science might provide explanatory completeness and predictive power analogous to that of astronomy or mathematical physics. The subject has even been called ‘social physics’. But, challenges Bosanquet, is all science quantitative natural science?4 Another very important analogy has been that of biology, most notably in the work of Spencer. Extending the evolutionary approach of modern biology to the social sphere has, Bosanquet admits, been very fruitful, especially its emphasis on the continuity of nature and the role of competition, but, he complains, it has also promoted an unfortunate pattern of explaining the higher in terms of the lower; a habit encouraged by our unfortunate natural tendency to take as more ‘real’ whatever comes first or is designated a ‘cause’.5 A third discipline to have offered itself as a model is that of economics, as for example in Marx's materialist view of history and society; but economic life is only one part of human life and the contrast between material facts and ideas can have no ultimate standing.6 Despite Comte's desire to banish it, psychology has figured strongly in modern French sociology, and certainly when dealing with social ‘facts’, you cannot avoid bringing in mind.7 But social philosophy cannot reduce itself to psychology either, for like biology it explains the higher by the lower, whereas philosophy works from the other end.8

Bosanquet's comparisons should not be taken too negatively here. He is not opposed to strictly empirical sociology. He wants simply to point out its inability to address those questions he wishes to tackle, questions better suited to a more philosophical method. Philosophy takes a broader and larger vision. It ‘is critical throughout; it desires to establish degrees of value, degrees of reality, degrees of completeness and coherence’. And its purpose is ‘ethical’—although that term should (p.491) not be taken too narrowly.9 It is enough to see that the disciplines are different; although ‘different’ here does not mean isolated and separate, for certainly philosophy and sociology supplement each other. ‘Philosophy gives a significance to sociology; sociology vitalises philosophy.’10

14.1.2 Ancient Greece and the nature of society

While in some form there is ‘state’ wherever there are people, there are two historical manifestations of statehood—with two associated philosophies—in which Bosanquet takes an especial interest. The modern nation-state and its chief theorist Rousseau we shall look at in a moment, but first we need to think about the Greek city state as described by Plato and Aristotle. For they were the first to capture the fundamental nature of society, thinks Bosanquet, continuing and expanding on the central importance already accorded to classical political philosophy by idealist historians such as Nettleship, Caird, and A.C. Bradley.11

Bosanquet insists that ‘there is no sound political philosophy which is not an embodiment of Plato's conception’.12 For Plato there is an exact parallel between the structure and unity of a human being and the structure and unity of society, both perfect harmonizations of different functions.13 Each class of people possesses a distinctive type of character and all must be coherently adjusted together into an organic whole, whose proper model is either mind—‘the outward organisation of society is really as it were a body which at every point and in every movement expresses the characteristics of a mind’14—or, less abstractly, the human individual as a whole; ‘This great comparison of the relation between human beings in society to that between the parts of a living body was introduced into moral thought by Plato, and has been, perhaps, the most fruitful of all moral ideas.’15 Aristotle too (fearing that Plato's abolition of the family produces too much homogeneity) insists that society is a union of different functions.16 Aristotle's state is an organic unity prior to the individual, such that man makes no sense apart from it; which is why Aristotle describes him as by nature a political animal.17 Bosanquet sees the ideas of Hegel, Green, and Bradley as repeating these old truths; Aristotle's concept of ergon (function) becomes Bradley's ‘My Station and its Duties’ such that, ‘man really does not exist as man without some (p.492) station and duties’.18 For Bosanquet, the Greeks showed that the individual cannot be regarded as an atom, but attains genuine individuality only as something organic to the communal whole. Society is a system of minds not just of things,19 but a system of minds, taken seriously, requires a system of ideas, some dominant some subordinate, making its unity much like that of an individual mind.20

Along with this theory of society and its relation to individuals Bosanquet finds in ancient Greek thinking a theory of the good life. The precise form of that life is set by the nature of the human mind as rational. Humans are driven by intolerance of contradiction, in practical as well as theoretical affairs, and this striving for harmony fuels a growth or advance in character, according to which the ‘good’ is a matter of the complete realization of the individual soul, ‘the perfection of human personality’.21 But if it is to succeed, this process of development cannot occur in isolation; ‘The fundamental idea of Greek political philosophy, as we find it in Plato and Aristotle, is that the human mind can only attain its full and proper life in a community of minds.’22 Only playing our part in a social whole that fulfils others too, may we find our own fulfilment. This, of course, is the notion Green re-discovers in his theory of the common good. It is important that the thoroughly moral nature of this ideal not be lost sight of. Advancement in our material well-being, although it may help us on the way, is not an intrinsic part of the good life; Bosanquet is quite explicit, for example, that in itself moving people from poor to better housing, unless it also facilitates an improved form of life or character, brings them no nearer to a better life.23

14.1.3 The General Will

The political ideas of the ancient world passed away, but coincident with the emergence of the contemporary nation-state was a rebirth of modern political philosophy, whose decisive figure is Rousseau. Bosanquet arrives at Rousseau's great contribution through criticism of a class he calls ‘prima facie theories’ or ‘theories of the first look’.24 We can trace back such views at least to Hobbes and Locke, but in more recent times they are associated with Bentham, Spencer, and J.S. Mill. Their distinguishing character is to take individual human beings as distinct units, and try to build from there. But in this, thinks Bosanquet, they face an impossible task. None of these theories are able adequately to explain political obligation. If I do not wish to comply, what authority over me have others—even a majority—besides that of force or coercion? But surely my (p.493) political obedience to the legitimate rule of others should be construed as a matter of moral rather than prudential submission? The lesson to be learned, argues Bosanquet, is that we need to dismantle the whole distinction between self and others inherent in the atomistic individualism of ‘first look’ theories.

He suggests as a more promising approach, that of Rousseau, which for all its inconsistency, ‘[breaks] through to the root of the whole matter’.25 His high opinion of Rousseau compares with Green's, but contrasts with Caird's rather lower estimate. However, what he has in mind here is not the theory of social contract, but the theory of General Will. The way in which Bosanquet employs Rousseau's ideas may be set out as follows.

Adopting his notion of the volonté générale, as distinct from the volonté de tous, Bosanquet claims Rousseau showed that will not force is the basis of the state—his words here echoing Green's.26 The state expresses the General Will and commands, therefore, the obedience of all. The General Will ‘by definition aims at the public welfare’,27 Bosanquet argues; it is ‘in the last resort, the ineradicable impulse of an intelligent being to a good extending beyond itself…a common good’28 or ‘common interest’.29

At the same time Bosanquet distinguishes between an individual's Actual Will and their Real Will. What we consciously desire from moment to moment constantly changes, and can never amount to ‘a full statement of what we want’.30 Our will as we apply it ‘in the trivial routine of daily life’ ‘implies or suggests’31 more than itself. To get that something further we must bring in all the other things we want, and then mutually harmonize and adjust them. We then need to bring in what other people want, and again, mutually harmonize and adjust. In this fashion we arrive at the Real Will. The process is in large part one of rationalization, and as well as the ‘true’ or ‘real’ will, Bosanquet speaks of it as the ‘rational’ will.32 In some respects it is the difference between what we want at any time and what we want sub specie aeternitas, inviting comparison with Bradley's critical contrast between utilitarian or momentary satisfaction and the satisfaction of one's life as a whole. The two wills are almost exact opposites: our Actual Will is narrow, arbitrary, self-contradictory, aimed at apparent interests and wants, particular, private and casual, while our Real Will is complete, rational, true, aimed at real interests and permanent wants, universal, shared, and purposive.33

(p.494) Bosanquet then connects these two distinctions, paralleling (or perhaps even identifying) the Real Will and the General Will. As in the individual the Real Will goes beyond, yet essentially manifests itself through, the Actual Will, so in society the General Will goes beyond, yet essentially manifests itself through, the Will of All; the General Will is, we might say, the Real Will of society. Commentators have glossed this step of the argument differently. Sweet34 argues that my private will, fully rational and informed, would take in the wills of others and thus be the General Will. Nicholson argues that because we are social beings, we recognize the General Will as our true will.35 Tyler envisions two transitions taking place, from my actual to my real will and then from my real will to the General Will.36 But if the precise details may be debated, the general import is perfectly clear. The individual's Real Will is identified with the General Will of society; our individual good is found (as Green would put it) in the common good, or (in Bradley's words) in my station and its duties. And the chief payout for political philosophy from such an identification is that it allows us to make sense of political obligation. Theories of the first look became unstuck with the paradox of what could ever justify one person or group's coercion of another. However, on Bosanquet's model, we can make sense of this; the exercise of government is really one aspect of ourselves (the better/higher) coercing the other (the worse/lower), a matter of ‘making ourselves’ do something ‘for our own good’. An illustration may help. Under the influence of a strong desire we may be sorely tempted to lie or steal or cheat, but (let us suppose) good moral habits win out and we simply can't bring ourselves to do so. Looking back, we see a narrow escape, and are glad that our better self took over the reins. In the same way a state which compels those of its members who do not explicitly agree with it, may still claim to be acting in their name, if it genuinely represents their real will, what they would want if they rationally thought things through.

14.1.4 The state

If there exists a General Will that can justify the coercive structures of society it becomes, of course, a matter of supreme importance to determine its content. But can the General Will be known? And if so, how? Rousseau insisted that it can only be ascertained by the direct votes of everyone37 (he rejects both the idea of representation and the idea that any one group might be awarded control) but Bosanquet, for all his support of the basic idea, objects that this method simply delivers the Will of All (which is merely a sum of individual interests) and not the General Will (which aims at a common shared interest). For this reason he prefers Hegel's alternative solution that the (p.495) General Will is not expressed immediately but mediately in ‘sittlichkeit’,38 a term which he uses to indicate the expression of a society's values and beliefs through the whole range of its institutions and practices from political, to legal, to economic, to social. Bosanquet broadly agrees.39

From identifying the Real Will with social sittlichkeit, Bosanquet makes the short further step of identifying it with the state.40 This equation has resulted in much debate, and so it must be looked at very carefully. But to start we should just note his definition of ‘state’, which is very wide. Far from the narrow organs of political power, he gives to the term a reference even broader than he does to the term ‘society’.

I use the term ‘State’ in the full sense of what it means as a living whole, not the mere legal and political fabric, but the complex of lives and activities, considered as the body of which that is the framework. ‘Society’ I take to mean the same body as the State, but minus the attribute of exercising what is in the last resort absolute physical compulsion.41

In criticism Hobhouse complains that Bosanquet confuses state and society.42 And although the term ‘confusion’ seems inappropriate here—for Bosanquet is quite deliberately and consciously adopting this wide sense—we may well wonder with Hobhouse whether it is helpful to abandon the more common and narrower sense? What lies behind Hobhouse's complaint is fear. For the state is a coercive force, and in identifying it with something larger than individuals, government or even civil society, we seem to be creating an abstract monster with a life of its own to pursue without regard to, and even at the expense of, our individual selves. Hobhouse sees it as an alien will that can overwhelm our own.That there is something amiss with this reading here is suggested by the fact that on points of specific policy it is almost always Hobhouse who urges greater state intervention and Bosanquet who, in the name of individual autonomy and self-reliance, opposes it.43 And indeed in unpacking Hobhouse's reading of Bosanquet's sense of the state, there is no small irony. For he has arrived at something which is almost the exact reverse of Bosanquet's meaning. Rather than an abstract obstacle threatening and at odds with individual liberty, Bosanquet's state is a concrete vehicle for personal self-realization, the very path to free individual fulfilment. It is not an end in itself. It is not the Absolute.44 The state is the servant of society, not vice versa, for there is more to life than life-in-the-state.45 (Comparison with Bradley's ‘Ideal Morality’ is instructive here.) To be sure, in as much as it is an individual, the state has an ethical goal which it must pursue, and in that sense it is a moral agent, like those (p.496) who live in it. But it must be remembered that there is a fundamental difference between the morality of the individual and that of the state. The one ‘works out the detail of his duty on the basis of recognized rights within a previously ordered and organized society’; the duty of the other is precisely ‘to provide and sustain, at all hazards, the organized society within which the individual is to live’.46 Although he does not believe that the General Will can be ascertained by voting, Bosanquet does believe in democracy.47 The General Will evolves primarily through changes in people, not through changes in laws or governments—the latter transitions are more likely to reflect adjustments that have already taken place in society.

14.1.5 State authority, freedom, and rights

How on this model are we to conceive the complex knot of relations between state and individual? For Bosanquet, the state has absolute authority over the individual. Its end is a moral one; to bring about the common good. And since we, because of our ‘animal limitations’,48 will not do this alone, it is justified in exerting force over us. There is no limit in principle to its jurisdiction.

But all of this is only one half of the story. For the state is made up of individuals and, from their point of view, the only possible goal is freedom. The consciousness that distinguishes us from other creatures is bound up with our will, such that it may fairly be said that freedom ‘is the true nature of mind’,49 and for Bosanquet, ‘the whole political philosophy of Kant, Hegel, and Fichte is founded on the idea of freedom as the essence of man, first announced…by Rousseau’.50 But we must distinguish here between simple or negative ‘juristic liberty’ and positive ‘political liberty’,51 understood in the sense of self-determination. There is, Bosanquet admits, a degree of metaphorical extension in calling the latter ‘freedom’—by it we are delivered not from others but from an inhibiting part of ourselves—but even if restrictions are called for to put us in a position to realize, not merely our day-to-day will, but our real will, it is nonetheless true that ‘the ‘higher’ liberty is also in fact the ‘larger’ liberty, presenting the greater area to activity and the more extensive choice to self-determination’.52

Against the absolute authority of the state is set the absolute demand for freedom. In any ‘theory of the first look’ this would be a plain contradiction, but on Bosanquet's system that is no longer the case. The precise way in which they are fitted together forms the subject of Bosanquet's theory of rights. Rights are not freedoms from the state for those whose natural condition is liberty, but rather freedoms found in the state by those who would otherwise have none. Bosanquet adopts a ‘teleological’, or moral, (p.497) conception of rights; they exist in virtue of an ‘end’. We have rights to those things necessary for the realization of the common good at which each individual aims. They are ‘powers instrumental to making the best of human capacities’.53 In consequence of the socially situated nature of such human fulfilment, he provides an account of rights that is based on identifying one's ‘station’ or function in society and the duties that follow from it. One acquires rights to such powers as are needed to fulfil the positions one has within the social order, and they attach to the role not the individual per se.54 For how could anyone settle what rights people have as mere biological creatures without taking into account their social character and situation, its functions and needs? Like Green, Bosanquet further argues that there exist no rights prior to or independent of the state; rights require recognition by the state.55 But rights are not a merely social or legal creation, whatever arbitrary rule a society might settle on, for they are essentially moral in aim designed to bring about ‘the perfection of human personality’.56

It might be asked whether we have the right to defy or resist the state? Bosanquet replies that any set of institutions that embodies the conditions necessary for obtaining the good life has an absolute claim on our obedience—we have no right to act immorally, nor to rebel against that system whose function is precisely the ‘maintenance’ (i.e. the creation and preservation) of our rights57—but where that claim to represent us is fraudulent, where those who would have us obey them do not speak for the Real Will or promote the common good, matters are altered.58 Resistance may be justified. We have no standing right to disobey or rebel against the state, however, and any resistance we contemplate must be weighed up against the value of preserving social order. In consequence, Bosanquet doubts whether political disobedience is ever justified so long as there exists the democratic alternative of constitutional change.59

14.1.6 Applications of Bosanquet's political theory

The state is a moral agent. It aims to promote morality; it commands absolute authority; and there is, further, no limit to its sphere of influence. With such guiding principles the question of state interference ought to be easy, but in fact it becomes very complex, for Bosanquet argues (as did Green) that the state cannot directly promote morality. It cannot determine the free will of individuals; their motives, which alone give true value to action, falling outside the scope of its direct control.60 All it can do is to try to bring about the conditions most likely to promote goodness. Where circumstances make the best life difficult or impossible, it must try to remove those obstacles (p.498) and smooth the passage. This Bosanquet describes as the ‘principle of the hindrance of hindrances’.61 In this way state action can create opportunities, and he held that there should be no a priori limitation on the ways in which it might be employed to promote social well-being—allowing it to act both positively and negatively to remove barriers to the best common life. But Bosanquet is very aware of its power to destabilize and demoralize human character. Indeed, of all the Idealists, he is perhaps the most circumspect and fearful of state intervention.62 The state has a right to force its way into private life, and may achieve much of value by doing so, but extreme care must be taken in administering this ‘dangerous drug’ of violence,63 lest it undermine its own efforts. Indiscriminate aid is capable of doing ‘very serious mischief’.64

Since this balance is one that must be settled on a case by case basis rather than by simple appeal to some blanket general principle,65 we get a better handle on this so-far very abstract consideration, if we turn to look at some practical applications; beginning with private property. For the basic justification of exclusive ownership, he follows Green. In order to express our will we need to have ‘a power of moulding the material world in the service of ideas’,66 which power translates as property. A being wholly without property has no effective will. Moreover, private property encourages responsibility.67

But the universal need for property does not extend either to its unlimited acquisition, or to its equal distribution regardless of character, capacity or need.68 Although he does not advocate complete laissez faire and welcomes schemes of worker ownership, Bosanquet had no ambitions towards socialist redistribution. Part of the argument for this comes from his Platonic ideas of differential social function; we all have different roles to play in our community with different property requirements. ‘It is plain that there cannot be all-round identity of function, at any rate in a civilised society; and, therefore, the apparatus possessed by individuals for their functions, what we call property, must be different.’69 But even more importantly, Bosanquet thinks that any attempt simply to grant welfare to all would work to undermine any imperative to self-improvement, which would be disastrous for human character. He allows both charity and state aid, but insists that it must never be such as to act as a disincentive to self-sufficiency. This was precisely what the COS was set up to ensure, for what the effects of any charitable action might be cannot be stated generally, but only ascertained (p.499) on a case by case basis.70 That aid might do more harm than good was a very serious danger in his eyes:

I believe in the reality of the general will, and in the consequent right and duty of civilised society to exercise initiative through the State with a view to the fullest development of the life of its members. But I am also absolutely convinced that the application of this initiative to guarantee without protest the existence of all individuals brought into being, instead of leaving the responsibility to the uttermost possible extent on the parents and the individuals themselves, is an abuse fatal to character and ultimately destructive of social life. The abolition of the struggle for existence, in the sense in which alone that term applies to human societies, means, so far as I can see, the divorce of existence from human qualities; and to favour the existence of human beings without human qualities is the ultimate inferno to which any society can descend.71

Turning from property to the question of punishment,72 which Bosanquet characterizes as a societal ‘shudder of repudiation’,73 a communal condemnation or annulment of wrongdoing, we find that he is basically a retributivist. ‘Punishment is the “negation” of a bad will by the reaction of the social will for good,’ he says. ‘This is its nature and character, and this sums up its value.’74 The fundamental truth ‘that wrong demands negation’ is most clearly demonstrated in Kant's famous thought-experiment highlighting our obligation to execute the last criminals.75 We are liable for punishment only where we are a member of a society and rebel against its rules, which is to rebel against ourselves, making it in a sense our own will returning back on ourselves. As when we stumble and hurt our foot we may look up and see we are off the path, punishment ‘brings us to our senses’—it is, we might think, a warning signal we leave for ourselves in case we ever need it one day. It needs to be distinguished from private vengeance, and is not more clearly understood by being traced back to its historical origins.

Reform and deterrence are ‘expansions [or] outgrowths of its central character,’ suggests Bosanquet. He has no wish to deny their function, but insists they must not be allowed to become ends in their own right.76 Thus, it is certainly to be hoped that punishment will educate (though it has limited power to do so—it cannot, for example, make people moral) but taken alone as a justification of punishment, it must be objected that the reform theory does not respect individuals as agents or ends in themselves. It rather treats them as patients, their crimes merely natural evils, like a disease, to be cured.77 What might be a kindness to creatures incapable of having rights, applied to responsible human beings is an ‘insult’. ‘It leads to the notion that the (p.500) State may take hold of any man, whose life or ideas are thought capable of improvement, and set to work to ameliorate them by forcible treatment.’78 By contrast retributive theory takes seriously the notion of an offender.79 A criminal who sets himself against the system of rights which he shares with others (and thus against himself) is entitled to ‘recognition of his hostile will’.80 His punishment is a right of which he should not be defrauded by being turned from an offender into a patient.81 The value of deterrence should not be denied either, thinks Bosanquet. Indeed, he admits that is the main source of the scales of punishment; for although retribution calls for some sort of parity, the state cannot estimate levels of either pain or guilt,82 while there is much data about what levels of deterrence are effective. But deterrence cannot constitute the justification of punishment itself, for let loose from our retributivist sense of justice or desert, its logic would take us straight back to ‘the savage cruelties of obsolete penal codes’ which were based purely on fear.83

The issue of justice itself, which this last point raises and which is a central topic in contemporary theory of politics, received little specific attention from idealist philosophers. Bosanquet was an exception, although the dismissive attitude he adopts is typical enough and his account serves well to explain their broader lack of interest. For Bosanquet justice is a comparative notion; it is the demand that people be treated equally according to a common rule. Injustice is a matter of not keeping to the rule, or making arbitrary exceptions. Its defects are two. First, it is individualistic in so far as it works from a direct surface comparison of individuals. But there are deeper (if less immediately apparent) standards, like patriotism or the common good, that call on us to give all we can and not to compare our advantages or burdens with those of others.84 Second, even where we meet the primary demands of justice by keeping to a rule, the rule itself can bring in its own injustice, for simplistic exception-less principles inevitably break down, demanding equal treatment in what are really unequal cases.85

‘Justice is certainly not the highest point of view,’ concludes Bosanquet; but if we do consider it among the lower of social values we should remember too that its claims are only ‘transformed’ by higher ones, not ‘cancelled’ by them.86 For instance, with regard to self-sacrifice, we should remember ‘that in order to sacrifice himself a man must first have possessed himself.…A man can only surrender what is recognised as his.’87 The state must genuinely grant to all, those goods it calls its citizens to stand up or to die for.

(p.501) Bosanquet draws a distinction between the ‘rough Justice of the social necessity’ and ‘ideal Justice’. Though they may be the best we can manage, the crude rules of justice we come up with inevitably suffer limitations, but this suggests (even if it is for us something practically unachievable) the notion of a perfect justice, one that involves ‘a comparative weighing of the difficulties of every individual case’. For example, instead of a blanket obligation on everyone, the call to serve would be precisely adjusted ‘to every inequality of situation and of mental and bodily fitness’.88 It is possible to regard the whole social system as an attempt to do just this, in which case, ‘ideal Justice would practically coincide with a perfect social system’.89 Modifying each rule for every difference would result in a massively complex system, from which the character of general rule would have vanished altogether.90 Thus we see that the greatest thinkers on justice in the end move away from any simple rules by which to compare individuals; in the end ‘it is the whole system that dictates his functions to every individual; and the law of Justice is that he should be what his special duty demands, however hard or humble may be the place so assigned’.91

14.1.7 Objections to Bosanquet's political theory

Such high abstractions set many alarm bells ringing. Some critics were themselves Idealists. For example one hostile voice was the Personal Idealist, Hastings Rashdall, who in his 1899 review, complained that in overlaying the theories of Plato and Aristotle with the ideas of Hegelianism, Bosanquet had mixed up insights ‘common to all modern politics’ with a host of further points ranging from the questionable, through the absurd, the vague and the nebulous, to the unhelpful. For example, if augmenting Rousseau's notion that it is our duty to obey the wish dominant in our society, Bosanquet wishes to add the proviso, only insofar as it really does tend to the general good, would it not be simpler to say just that, rather than attempt to show that that somehow is what actually is willed? It may be true that, in a sense, in the ideal state, the individual only ever obeys himself, but surely ‘there are simpler and less misleading ways of expressing that truth,’ opposes Rashdall.92

Other critics came from wholly outside the idealist camp. Most prominent among these was L.T. Hobhouse, whose The Metaphysical Theory of the State: A Criticism (1918) was directed explicitly at Bosanquet, whom he accuses of the worst of Hegelian Statism.93 His criticisms were not especially good—Bosananquet was much caricatured and misinterpreted—but they were influential. The mud that was first thrown tended (p.502) to stick, the criticisms repeated years later,94 and Bosanquet's reputation still bears the mark. It is therefore worth our while to consider the details of Hobhouse's critique.

We come quickly to the heart of the matter if we take up Bosanquet's two key terms, the Real Will and the General Will. In what sense (if any) do these exist? Hobhouse rejects the very idea of a real as opposed to an apparent will. A person's will is what it is, and that's all. We can allow that there are certain things, not currently willed, but which we would or might will were we more rational, but to allow that these have anything more than an ideal or hypothetical mode of being is to take an essentially unreal abstraction for something real. He objects that Bosanquet (and Hegel behind him) have failed to distinguish the ideal and the actual.95

In part Bosanquet would respond to such concerns by assimilating the case to other known and comparable experiences. It is, he suggests, similar to the way in which there can be distance between what we say and what we really mean, or between what we demand and what we really want. When such distance occurs something really is meant and something really is wanted.96 But at a deeper level Bosanquet would simply reject Hobhouse's implicit equation between being ideal and being unreal. The point is not simply that for Idealists ideas are real, but more specifically that this objection forgets that to Bosanquet the individual itself is an essentially ideal or hypothetical being; its essence is to go beyond itself, it is what it is becoming.97 Hobhouse and Bosanquet employ quite opposite senses of ‘real’. Far from regarding it, as Hobhouse does, the equivalent of ‘actual’, for Bosanquet, ‘real’ is a term that contrasts with ‘actual’. ‘Real’ for Bosanquet is a teleological notion; we really are, not what we actually happen to be, but what we might or will become; our essence is given in our end or goal.

Turning to the General Will, Bosanquet admits that there is quite some difficulty in seeing how this can be something real.98 How can society have a ‘will’ when it is not a mind? Surely the only wills are those of the individuals in the society? Bosanquet's reply to this is that in a very real sense society is a mind. The point (as we have already seen) was one he got from Plato,99 who would organize the state precisely as he thinks mind is organized, and in chapter seven of the Philosophical Theory of the State Bosanquet attempts to explain. He draws a distinction between mere association (where things simply find themselves together) and organization (where things are shaped by the very principle of unity that binds them as one),100 and urging that both mind and society are organizations, he suggests that society has the same type of unity as a mind, that of an interconnected structure of ideas. He gives the example of a school, whose reality lies (p.503) not in its buildings, but ‘in the fact that certain living minds are connected in a certain way’.101 Insofar as they share interconnected goals and ideas, minds can overlap (in the same way sets with shared membership overlap) and in this sense constitute a further mind.

We should not get carried away, however. Bosanquet is quite clear that there is no ‘social brain’ apart from the brains of individuals,102 and he never attributes personality to the state.103 How then does the union work? In ‘Reality of the General Will’ he explains. A mind is not just an unconnected set of ideas, but an organized set, that is, it manifests certain dominant ideas. Similarly a society is more than just an unconnected set of sets of ideas, for a measure of common beliefs, values, and goals among its members is necessary for the stable unity of any society. Insofar as we share a common life we share, not just ideas, but patterns of dominance among them. Or rather we should say harmoniously combined sets and patterns. For like the various parts of a machine, our differing ideas and patterns of dominance all fit together. Just as an individual's leading ideas are their will, so the shared leading ideas in society are its General Will. Rather than the reification of some monstrous abstraction, the General Will is a thoroughly concrete universal, despite the fact that it is not willed in its entirety by any individual. Indeed, no individual knows it in full,104 for it is only gradually emerging from unconsciousness into reflective consciousness.105

14.2 Henry Jones

14.2.1 The study of society

We looked already at one of Henry Jones' early papers, ‘The Social Organism’, which he contributed to the Essays in Philosophical Criticism volume, but social and political issues remained at the centre of his work, and so we have now to consider some of his subsequent writings on these topics. Repeating the earlier calls of both Mackenzie and Bosanquet, in a series of Dunkin Lectures given first at Manchester College Oxford in 1904 under the title ‘The Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, Jones made a further appeal for the systematic study of social questions. At this present time, he complained, the study of society ‘is less in evidence in our universities than the study of algae or protozoa’.106 History, economics, ethics (though all useful) are none quite what is needed to help the social reformer, however; rather what is called for is ‘a philosophy of political or social life’.107

(p.504) One of the greatest obstacles to the creation of such a science, he suggests, has been the role of ‘metaphorical hypotheses’ which lead to the distortion of fact and the generation of endless controversy and confusion. He gives, as an example, the issue of how much of society's ills depend on, or (more positively) how much improvement could be achieved by focusing on, ‘character’ and how much on ‘environment’?108 The debate gets polarized between two extreme views: according to one, we need but change the external conditions and change of heart will follow, while according to the other all this alteration would be irrelevant and make no difference to people because change must come from within, so we must first teach people industry, thrift, sobriety, and such like.109 The mistake, suggests Jones, is to think of ‘character’ and ‘environment’ as though they were two physical things, separate and able to compete, cooperate, or undermine each other, for in truth, ‘What we call character from one point of view, we call environment from another. Character and environment are not even separate elements, far less are they independent, isolated, externally interacting objects.’110 There is no robust distinction to make between character and environment, and so the question of priority really is impossible to frame. We need to get away from the use of exclusive categories.111 Modern psychology is clear in telling us that we find nothing in our individual personality not answering to the environment in which we grow up; it is our social context that gives us the character we have.112 Take away from the ‘individual’ all he has borrowed from ‘the world’ and he could think no specific thought, form no purposes, seek no good, speak no language. But the same is true if you take away from the ‘world’ all that the ‘individual’ contributes to it; nothing is left beyond a brute ‘something’ devoid of either meaning or order.113

It is important to appreciate that this two-way relation is a dynamic one, ‘a process by which the outer world is formed anew within the individual's mind and will, or by which the individual forms himself through taking the world into himself as his own content’.114 At the beginning individual and world are more or less external to each other, and only potentially a unity. Gradually, however, character develops and takes into itself the nature of its environment. This is of great significance to the social reformer, for character, although plastic at first, once fixed, becomes very hard to change. Thus schemes of reform to the already depraved or corrupted have little effect, or even make things worse.115 The converse side of the story is that the power of society over unformed childhood is very great indeed,116 making the quality of the (p.505) surrounding educative influence that any community imparts a matter of overwhelming importance. People have been blinded to this last point by another metaphor, this time the biological idea of heredity—the belief that acquired characteristics can be inherited, and thus that the children of dissolute parents have themselves a inborn tendency to vice.117 Reviewing the evidence Jones comes out firmly against this notion. ‘The conclusion to which we are thus led, by our consideration of heredity in its relation to the child, is that character cannot be transmitted.…Each child is a new beginning; and the way to virtue, so far as internal conditions are concerned, is as open to the child of the wicked as it is to the child of the virtuous.’118

14.2.2 The evolution of spirit

In 1908 Jones gave a lecture tour of Australia,119 the substance of which he subsequently published under the title Idealism as a Practical Creed. He here sets out a view of history as the development of the spirit of freedom; a conception (as we have already noted) to be found in both Bosanquet and Caird, and in Hegel before them.120 ‘Civilization is nothing but the process of revealing and realizing the Nature of Man,’ argues Jones, ‘and the revelation is still going on.’121

This history, he suggests, has three stages which he designates with a biblical reference, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn.122At the earliest period in the life of a man or society there seems hardly to be any freedom at all; everything about life is determined for us by social tradition. The first fruits of spiritual growth beyond this state challenge the authority of the social world, as rejecting or turning away from it, freedom is construed negatively in terms of independence from society.123 From Socrates to the French Revolution freedom is conceived in this way. But freedom which is merely freedom from the world is only a preliminary stage on the way to true freedom.124 The next stage has its prophets, the ‘poet-philosophers’ Hegel, Goethe, Carlyle, and Wordsworth—idealists who see that Spirit is not opposed to the world but rather its very life-blood, that ‘the natural world is itself the symbol or phenomenal manifestation of Spirit’.125 But if spirit is manifest in unthinking nature it is even more so in humanity, and it is here that we must look for its fullest and most developed incarnation. Man must be realized not apart from society, but precisely through it. Recognition of this truth, which Jones believed the philosophers of his own age to have reached, constitutes the culminating stage of freedom.

(p.506) In other words, Jones, like the other Idealists we have already examined, is offering a social account of the individual and his fulfilment. Metaphysically, he opposes the atomistic conception of self, holding that individuals together form an organic unity. ‘The mutual implication of State and citizen has the unity and intensity of a single life.’126 But if ‘the substance of [man's] soul is social’,127 the significance of this answer stretches beyond metaphysics to ethics, and it is in similarly holistic fashion that the individual finds his true end in the state. ‘The law within and the law without may coincide. Man may be obedient and yet free, and the more obedient because he is free.’128 With another deliberate religious echo, he suggests that perfect freedom is service.129 In a social context man finds himself in his ‘station and its duties’.130 Moreover, in setting out this historical framework, Jones reminds us that the human society in question is trans-historical. Heirs to the achievements of the past and the organs of far-reaching future purposes, we are bound up not simply with our contemporaries, but are ‘member[s] of a moral partnership which contains the living and the dead’—the community of humanity itself.131

14.2.3 The idealist conception

This story presupposes a number of core idealist conceptions worth bringing out more explicitly. In the first place, of course, it takes a teleological understanding of the historical evolution of society and morals. Historical sequence remains unintelligible if we look only backwards for its causal origins. Instead we need to see where it is heading. ‘The ideal—not the “average”—is the true type. It is only when we “know what we shall be,” which is not as yet, that we shall know what we are.’132 But such a change in perspective leads to a switch in the kinds of cause to which we attribute social growth. We must look not to events but to ideas, for ‘ideals are the forces of the moral world and the master-powers in the world we see.’133 Jones is particularly impressed by the way in which the accumulated experience and ideas of the past are carried forward to create and enrich those of the present. A key element in this process is literature, although equally important are institutions, which are thoroughly shaped by their past and ‘which are really nothing but embodied ideas’.134

From the story he tells Jones draws important practical lessons. Society is not stuck in a rut, nor is it blindly lurching forward. Rather it is progressing under its own inherent (p.507) steam. And only with great care should we interfere. He is therefore opposed to revolutionary change. Progress, including individual moral progress, must always be steady; there can be no jumps or sudden changes. Jones is no mere conservative, but he does think the reformer must find the way things are ‘tending’135 and work with it not against it. In this manner the practical and the speculative are allies and ‘a philosopher's thinking will lose neither range nor force from having a practical purpose to serve—provided always that the purpose be broad enough and he makes the universe an accomplice in his plot’.136

A third point to note is that the history of the world can only be thought of as the history of freedom on a peculiar (idealist) conception of freedom, that is, as self-legislation.137 Jones argues that we should not ask wholly abstract or static questions like, ‘Does man have free will or not?’ Such questions distort the facts and can only ever be answered, ‘Both Yes and No’. Freedom, it must be recognized, is a matter of degree and also a process; man ‘is not bond or free, rational or irrational; but he is moving from promise to fulfilment.…He is becoming free, and acquiring reason; and it is only because he can become, that we can call him either free or rational.’138

There is no hope that we will arrive at the right conception of freedom, unless we have (fourthly) the correct idealist conception of personality. As we have already shown both with regards to the character–environment debate and earlier with regards to his philosophy of religion, for Jones, our person-hood needs to be understood as comprehensive not isolated. The more we are distinguished from others, the less we are in ourselves.139

14.2.4 State and individual

Jones' general conception of the relations between state and individual, and of the nature and scope of intervention and rights, follow broadly familiar lines. To begin with we should note that the state is not just the government, but includes such social structures as, for example, the world of business. In his 1905 lectures, Social Responsibilities, delivered to businessmen in Glasgow, he insisted that much depends on them. They have a duty, he tells them, to bring about conditions of labour that ‘make men and not destroy them’.140 For Jones the state is a moral agent;141 it aims to make us moral;142 and ‘It is only on moral grounds that we can determine the nature and limits (p.508) of its functions.’143 The test of a successful society is not material prosperity, but moral growth. Such a notion conjures fears of an unfortunate citizenry spied upon by some moral police or forced to sit some intrusive moral exam, but in fact the test Jones has in mind is more benign. The criterion of the successful action of the state is the effective freedom of its citizens.144

Jones wants to give great power to the state. He argues that no limits on what it may do can be fixed beforehand. ‘I am not able to see that there is anything which the State may not do, or any department of man's life, however private, into which its entrance would be an invasion and interference,’145 he allows. Such power, of course, must be wisely used, but the only relevant test for this is whether it in fact succeeds in bringing about moral transformation. Critics worried about excessive state interference in private lives often fail to realize that the state already limits us in countless way, notes Jones, but on the whole it limits only our ability to do what is wrong or stupid;146 and this is no violation of rights, ‘for the liberty to do wrong is not a right, but the perversion of a right and its negation’.147

Turning to the question of rights, for Jones, these are not natural or fixed, but socially determined. Moreover rights imply duties. The two are co-relative, the same thing looked at from different points of view.148 For all that, Jones takes individual rights seriously.

There remains in the moral life of the citizens an intensely individual element which the State must never over-ride.…But, on the other hand, the sovereignty of the individual's will and all its sacredness come from its identification with a wider will. His rights are rooted in the rights of others.…Hence, the individual can resist the will of the community or the extension of the functions of his city or State only when he has identified his own will with a will that is more universal, more concrete, and the source of higher imperatives than either. And this means that he can resist the State only for the good of the State, and never merely for his own profit.149

Jones sees real limits to state interference, but these limits are only those imposed by its own end or supreme purpose.150 The aim is to moralize social relations as they stand.151 But the State cannot enforce or manipulate morality. There can be no coercion to be moral. Compulsion and freedom are incompatible, and any intervention which (p.509) undermines our character is self-defeating. The state cannot make us righteous, any more than can a father make his children good,152 but it can create circumstances favourable to a good life. In this way,

The good State is like a good gardener, who secures for his plants the best soil and the best exposure for sunshine, air, and rain, and who then waits—not fashioning nor forming flower or fruit, but eliciting the activities of the life which bursts into them. His aim limits his meddling.153

Somewhat at a distance from Green and Bosanquet, Jones argues that state interference or provision of goods does not always tend to undermine or nullify individual moral effort in the same direction; legislation need not always impede spontaneity.154 ‘The action of the State cannot be merely negative, and cannot be confined to the external conditions of its citizens’ lives, but must enter within,' he argues, ‘it does not stop at the outward act and the mere intention but affects the motive and penetrates the self and becomes a living part of its structure.’155 He suggests that the positive function of the state is becoming more and more prominent as civilization grows, and the range of its exercise extending.156 Such intrusion is inevitable. The state cannot altogether avoid educating its people, and it is not possible simply to affect outer action without influencing inner motives. The only question is whether it does so well or ill.157 Besides, Jones argues, the whole distinction between outer action and inner motive is not ultimate.158

Given Jones' holism and his support for state intervention, one might fear that in his political philosophy the individual just serves the state. But one of the most distinctive aspects of his system is the thorough reciprocity he finds between individual and state. Giving full reign to his literary fondness for a strong turn of phrase, Jones delights in arguing that everything goes both ways.

If the nature of the individual is essentially social, the nature of society is essentially individual.159

The State is the citizen ‘writ large,’ and the citizen is the State writ small. There is, in the final resort, no good State except where there are good citizens, nor good citizens except in a good State. Every citizen is responsible for his State; and the State is responsible for every one of its citizens.160

The power of the good State empowers the citizen, and the power of the good citizen empowers the State.161

The significance of this reciprocity is that it provides a sense in which the state can be assessed. Citizens must serve the state, and are judged by how well they do so, but he (p.510) wholly rejects the charge that we are just means to its end, for a state that fails to serve it citizens is equally a failing one, for that is how it is judged; ‘a State [is] a good State, and a citizen a good citizen precisely in the degree to which they are for one and another both means and ends.’162 In view of the common charge that the idealist state is held to no account, this reciprocal principle of measurement is important to note.

14.2.5 Socialism and individualism

Like most of the other Idealists Jones was forced to address the pressing debate of the age, the quarrel between individualism and socialism. As did his teacher, Caird, he tries to dissolve the clash. In Social Responsibilities, his lectures to businessmen, he argues that as opposites or extremes both positions are mistaken; the former in wishing individuals to be free as far as possible from the interference of society, the latter in wishing to replace as far as possible private with municipal or state action. Their common error is a failure to see that the individual and the state share one life, such that each in repressing its opposite is really destroying itself. Whether he recognizes it or not the individual depends vitally on society, but society can only act through its own strong and healthy individuals.163 In philosophical terms he argues that the dichotomy between individualism and socialism is a spurious one; ‘the distinction of private from public good is, in the moral sphere, entirely false’.164

Not only have the terms of the debate been misunderstood, but also the underlying principles at issue. ‘This social problem is material or economical only on the surface,’ he argues, ‘In its deeper bearings it is ethical.’165 At one level idealism seems unwilling to advocate any specific social change, but at a more fundamental level all must be changed. Thus idealism does not align itself to the simplistic party politician. It would conserve most of our current social institutions, like property and the family,166 but all would be moralized and reformed.167 Progress comes not from destroying social relations but from transforming them ethically.168

Jones was in fact unhappy about the Labour Party insofar as it appealed to class interest rather than the common good. Through class interest, he thought, people ‘become unconscious enemies of the common weal’, ‘they strike at the heart of the common good’,169 and simply repeat, this time in reverse, the past errors of the privileged.170 And any socialism which called for widespread nationalization or the abolition of property was equally to be rejected. The appropriation of the means of (p.511) industry by the state would reduce the individual to an unhealthy dependence upon it,171 while private property is necessary for moral self-realization.172 ‘Let the individual own nothing but himself and he will not have a self to own.’173 Property is in this sense an institution of the state, something the state ought to protect him in claiming.174 ‘Private property…is an institution wherein the individual finds a rule of action in society and society a rule of action in the individual.’175 So even ‘private property’ is an example of the concurrent growth of both the subjective and the objective aspects of spirit.176

14.3 J.H. Muirhead

Muirhead studied under T.H. Green at Balliol and his social philosophy faithfully follows his teacher. Indeed, one of his first works, Service of the State (1908), is precisely an exposition of Green's political thought;177 but even his own contribution to the field, Social Purpose, which he co-authored in 1918 with one of Henry Jones' pupils, H.J.W. Hetherington, is thoroughly orthodox, with all of the key idealist elements in place. Muirhead wrote chapters I–V, VII, and XIII, from which all the quotations below are drawn.

As might be expected Muirhead repudiates any individualist conception of society justified by the notion of a social contract; for that is to think of the civic order ‘as in its essence a compromise’ between the freedom and independence which is ours by natural right and the threats to them which result from communal life, as something ‘in spite of which rather than that by means of which individuality is to be realized.’178 Instead we must understand ourselves as essentially social: ‘To deny one's citizenship is to deny one's humanity.’179 What makes something an individual is not its singular or separable nature but the fact that it ‘focuses’ reality at a particular point, responding to the environmental forces around it in such a way that, ‘at the same time it maintains its own nature, and is an essential part of the whole’ within which those forces act.180 To be noted is the way in which Muirhead makes use of the concrete universal in defence of this conception. Were socialization mere imitation of those around us, there would be no whole at all, merely an aggregate of identical individuals; but a more genuine universality is gained through the way in which we all in fact adapt differently to our (p.512) different situations; ‘all real society is co-operation, the embodiment of an idea or universal in a particular form determined by one's place in a whole. Where co-operation ceases and mere imitation begins, there is an end to sociality.’181 Nonetheless in his insistence to deny any ‘original spark’, Muirhead at times makes us seem little else but a conduit for higher things. ‘Personality is merely the point where the vitality of which society is the great repository condenses and manifests itself in triumphant form, and it would be strange indeed if the strength of societies and that of the personalities which is fed from it were in inverse proportion to each other.’182

As each individual is bound to society, society itself is conceived as an organic individual. He admits that ‘institutions are not men’, but insists that ‘On the other hand living institutions…represent the past efforts and the present co-operation of many individuals directed to a single and continuous purpose, and on this account may claim an individuality of their own of even a higher kind than of any single person.’183 Developing Bosanquet's Platonic comparison between the state and the human body, he suggests that, ‘As living organisms develop a central nervous system to co-ordinate the parts and assign them their places, so human life has evolved the State to secure individuals their functions and their corresponding rights.’184

Given that individuals are social so is their fulfilment. As ‘there is more in the mind than is before the mind’ so ‘behind the will to the particular good there is the consciousness (or if it be preferred, the subconsciousness) of its relation to a whole of good of which it is only the partial realization’.185 Whether or not we know it, we will the greater social or common good; although we could equally say that it wills us. There is no need to assume some further will over and above the wills of those that make up any society, simply that their willing is something more complex than we might first suppose, specifically that ‘underlying the ends which the individual sets before himself in a social world, there is a reference to a wider end than they commonly represent, and that this is none other than the maintenance of the social structure itself’.186

Arousing suspicions of statism, Muirhead has a very high opinion of the state; it is ‘the chief secular instrument and the highest as yet developed organ of the spirit’. But the state is not to be deified, it is not, as Hobbes taught, a God upon earth,187 and its greatness is merely our own; it can be great only by our being so.188 Indeed rather than working as one unit to bring specific things about, the best it can do is to work to set us free individually each to do the best we can. Idealism's great insight was that, ‘The (p.513) ultimate source of social betterment lay in the individual's power of responding to improved external conditions by utilizing them for self-improvement as a member of a civilized society and as himself a contributor to its further civilization. What the State could do was to remove hindrances to the free action of what for lack of a better name moralists call “conscience”—a faculty that might be deadened rather than quickened by hasty ill-considered collectivism.’189

One central theme of Social Purpose, the reality of the General Will, is something Muirhead finds empirically confirmed by the contemporaneous international catastrophe; ‘individuals and nations who threw themselves into the great war at the beginning did so from various motives, to find later that they had been caught up into a larger purpose than they were aware of, pointing to issues unconnected and even inconsistent with their original aims’.190 That there should be a common will among many individual wills is, of course, puzzling. Where Bosanquet looks to psychology and the presence of common dominating ideas, Muirhead stresses in particular the role of unifying social customs and habits.191

Hobhouse's critique of the General Will had considerable influence, and as late as 1924 Muirhead felt it worth returning to the issue and defending the General Will against Hobhouse's attack. Where Hobhouse directed his fire upon Bosanquet alone, Muirhead stresses (quite correctly) the continuity of Bosanquet's view with that of Bradley and Green,192 while to the charge that this is an unduly ‘metaphysical’ theory, Muirhead makes the reply—a point which Bradley himself made in Appearance and Reality—that all such accounts are metaphysical. It is disingenuous of critics to suggest that theirs are not; they simply have a different metaphysics.193 Perhaps most interesting of all is Muirhead's linkage of the General Will with the Concrete Universal.194 There is no need for us to deny the metaphysical distinctness of persons, for the unity of purpose that makes for the General Will is qualitative not numerical, but it is not a single property the same in all instances, like the common greenness of leaves, but rather a single idea or function variously manifested in its many different appearances;195 somewhat as throughout a variety of different tasks we may at each point describe what someone is doing as ‘making supper’. One advance Muirhead makes beyond Green is to champion the cause of democracy. Idealism is faith in the progress of spirit, and nowhere may we see such providence more at work than behind the rise of democracy.196 An instance of ‘the extension of the domain of will and intelligence over that of instinct and custom,’197 in its growth ‘a candle has been lighted that can (p.514) never be put out.’198 But, warns Muirhead, ‘Before democracy can succeed as a form of government it must succeed as a form of life.’199 So long as social life is conceived as a rivalry among individuals for goods, political democracy in any real sense will be impossible; we need to cultivate a sense of the common good, the virtues of self-sacrifice, patience and charity, to educate people in citizenship. Indeed more generally at the root of most current social problems lies the fact that there has occurred material growth without a corresponding spiritual growth; ‘the body has gone ahead of the spirit’.200

One of the principal virtues of democracy is its basis in equality—although Muirhead is quick to qualify this; it champions equality, ‘not in the sense of any qualitative or quantitative identity of actual goods, but in the sense of the equal right of all to the development of such capacity for good as nature has endowed them with.’201 What is needed is an equalization of opportunity ‘whose formula is not ‘I am as good as you are’ nor even ‘You are as good as I’ but rather ‘Neither of us is as good as we ought to be and as we shall be when by one another's aid we shall come to our rights’.’202 In a similar vein Muirhead opposes the suggestion that we abolish all class distinctions, objecting we must not confuse social inequality with the division of industrial labour. Differentiation and specialization are essential to society,203 he argues, linking the point again to that of concrete universality; greater unity is achieved not by making everyone the same, but by making them more and more different yet connected.204

14.4 R.B. Haldane

No one illustrates better than R.B. Haldane the Idealist combination of theory and praxis. He studied in Edinburgh and Germany, and was an early convert to the idealist doctrine, but instead of academia he went into affairs. He began to study law and, after his father's death in 1877, went to live in London. He was called to the English Bar in 1879, establishing a successful practice, and being appointed Queen's Counsel in 1890. In 1885 he was elected to parliament, as a liberal for East Lothian, and thus began a parallel political career. In 1905 he became minister for the War Office, in 1911 he was elevated to the peerage, and in 1912 he was made Lord Chancellor. This post he held until 1915 when, attacked as too ‘pro-Germany’, he was forced to resign.205 Throughout his busy political career, however, he continued with his philosophy; his efforts acknowledged by others in the field as worthy of the fullest attention, and not simply (p.515) those of an amateur (as was rather the case with A.J. Balfour, Britain's other notable philosopher-politician.) Nor were these two strands of his life set simply side-by-side in parallel, rather each informed the other.

Haldane was involved in the emergence of what became known as ‘new liberalism’, a broad political movement which sought to augment classical liberal thinking with a greater positive role for the state whilst at the same time avoiding the extremes of socialism. If he went further than Green in his advocacy of state intervention, the goal remained thoroughly Greenian in conception—the ‘fight for emancipation from conditions which deny fair play to the collective energy for the good of society as a whole.’206 The traditional liberal aim of freedom for the individual from interference largely achieved, he argued, politics ‘has now to win for him the conditions of freedom in a more subtle and far-reaching sense, of the freedom from that ignorance and unnatural lowness of moral and social ideal which are promoted by bad surroundings amid which too many of our fellow-countrymen are born and grow up’.207 Such thoughts caused Haldane from 1920 onwards to move increasingly towards the Labour party, and he was briefly Lord Chancellor again in Ramsay MacDonald's 1924 government.

The state should be engaged on a two-fold task, Haldane believed, to build-up and nurture every citizen and at the same time restrain all those who would exploit or drag him down;208 although it should be added that duties go both ways, and only through our reciprocal contribution to society do we earn the right to such concern from it.209 In concrete terms what such a view meant was that all should be allowed a living wage, a decent home, and an adequate education,210 but implicit too was a striving towards equality. The state, Haldane argued, must be furnished ‘with the means of in some measure modifying the advantages which one man has over another, and the inequalities which must always arise from diversity of natural capacity’.211 This was radical, but there were limits to the redistribution Haldane envisioned. Indeed, toning down his earlier position, by the time of the Great War we find him arguing that, although Christianity brought in the idea of the equal (infinite) value of each human being, by nature people are born with unequal advantages (talent, beauty, brains, health, etc.) which can never be done away with. Thus he opposes Bolshevism. People can, however, be given equality of opportunity of developing what is in them212—especially children (hence the importance of education) and women (he was closely (p.516) involved in promoting female suffrage.) For all his support of Green, on one key point—temperance—Haldane was at odds with him. He felt it addressed only the symptoms not the source of the disease. ‘The cause of drunkenness, and half-a-dozen social evils, is ignorance, bad housing, and poverty,’213 he argued; solve these problems and temperance will follow.

Lying behind this interventionist programme for social progress is a particular idealist model of society, by now familiar, as something both unified and spiritual. Rather than an aggregate of mutually exclusive human particles standing in external relations, people form a community in the sense that each man belongs to an ethical and political environment with which he is continuous and on which he depends for his nature and existence. The whole is not an entity apart from its members, it simply consists in the members each with their various stations and duties, but it is a genuine whole because it is only as members of such a unit that the individuals exist with the nature they do, each ‘pulse-beats of the whole system’.214 ‘Individual they are, but completely real, even as individual, only in their relation to organic and social wholes in which they are members, such as the family, the city, the state.’215

In attempting to explain this, Haldane helps himself to the familiar metaphor of biological organism. Living beings, he argues, display ‘this remarkable feature, that the life of the whole is present in each of the parts’. A body, for example, is made of countless cells, ‘but these cells act together in maintaining the common life of the organism’.216 The same he thinks holds of a society. But metaphors only take us part of the way, and he insists that social wholes cannot be completely captured in biological language alone, for biology ‘does not take account of conscious purpose and of the intelligence and volition which are characteristic of persons as distinguished from organisms’.217 Just as ‘the living organism is more and other than a mechanism’, so ‘the intelligent and moral human being is more and other than a merely living organism’.218 We share the holism of biology, but we have the added feature of purpose or intent; and what binds people together more than anything ‘is a certain sameness in general purpose’.219

In a 1913 address, ‘Higher Nationality’, Haldane approaches this notion of unity from another angle. ‘The law forms only a small part of the system of rules by which the conduct of the citizens of a state is regulated,’220 he argues, ‘if its full significance is to be appreciated, larger conceptions than those of the mere lawyer are essential.’221 There is conscience, but that is private.222 However, besides these two, ‘There is a more (p.517) extensive system of guidance which regulates conduct and which differs from both in its character and sanction. It applies, like law, to all the members of a society alike, without distinction of persons. It resembles the morality of conscience in that it is enforced by no legal compulsion.’223 In English there is no name for it, continues Haldane, but the Germans call it ‘Sittlichkeit’ and it covers ‘the system of habitual or customary conduct, ethical rather than legal, which embraces all those obligations of the citizen which it is “bad form” or “not the thing” to disregard.’224 It includes all the social institutions in and by which the individual life is influenced such as are the family, the school, the church, the legislature, and the executive.225 It is this unthinking or automatic sense of obligation that is ‘the chief foundation of society,’ urges Haldane.226 It is sometimes thought that (as opposed to the individual will that constantly changes) the communal will is static. But this is a mistake.227 Public opinion is never static, but constantly changes and develops.228 It can manifest in different ways, varying in form and strength, but in its highest form it is something ‘affording the most real freedom of thought and action for those who in daily life habitually act in harmony with the General Will’.229

The last sentence here reminds us that Haldane's Sittlichkeit is, of course, a relative of Rousseau's doctrine of the General Will. And like Rousseau, Haldane thinks that the general opinion must prevail. But the general opinion is not just the numerical or mechanical outcome of a set of ballot boxes on a particular day. We have to look below the surface of the moment. It is not revealed in any single institution, practice, standard, tradition, or culture—but in all of these together and more; in the common spirit they express. While there can be no other standard than that of democracy, like lawyers—and Haldane is here drawing on his other career—the statesmen in charge of a nation ‘must do their best to advise and guide their clients, and they must judge whether these clients have, in the utterances of fevered moments, really expressed themselves’.230 A distinction, for instance, must be drawn between a true General Will and a momentary or mob will.231

14.5 Idealism and education

We have already seen how strongly the Idealists focused on education, and this focus continued into the later period. Two general features stand out. The first is their view of the content of education. Given the idealist emphasis on service to society, it might (p.518) perhaps be expected that they would advocate vocational or professional education, such as would allow citizens to take up more effectively their station in society. But that was very far from their view. In an 1897 address to the students at Glasgow entitled, ‘General and Professional Education’, John Caird argued for the value of higher education of a broad and cultural type rather than one more narrowly focused towards future employment, on the threefold grounds that this is necessary for us to first find our professional vocation, that it works against the subsequent narrowing of the mind that a career tends to bring and that it better fits us for social duties outside our workplace. For these reasons he suggested young people ‘should be made to breathe for a term of years an intellectual atmosphere other and purer than that which but too often pervades the world on which they are about to enter’.232 This potential for a community to be educated through the elevated spirit which pervades it was expressed too by his brother Edward in one of his Lay Sermons to the students of Balliol. Our greatest educator is the moral tone of the community in which we find ourselves, he argued, and, ‘A man who has once lived in a society where the moral and intellectual tone was high, has by that very fact had his courage raised to attempt things of which he otherwise would never have dreamed.’233

The second general feature to note is the Idealists had a conception of education as teaching, not just learning. For illustration of this we may look again to John Caird, this time to an 1894 address, ‘The Personal Element in Teaching’, in which he says that the inspired lecture is to mere book learning ‘as the living spirit to the dead letter’.234 The point is important not least because what the Idealists themselves believed on this score they practised also. Although they were writers, it is crucial to remember that all235 of the British Idealists were also teachers; and in case of figures like Nettleship, Green, and the Cairds, primarily so. Their own educational efforts themselves manifested the ideas they attempted to spread with such zeal, and their influence was very largely through their pupils, rather than their readers.

A key figure to focus on in this regard is Henry Jones. Himself the beneficiary of precisely the kind of educational opportunities for the poor which he later worked so hard to extend, and also someone who had trained as a teacher before serving briefly as the master of an Elementary School, Henry Jones did much to lobby for education, especially in his native Wales. He supported compulsory state education, education for women, and adult education. He was a key player in the movement which resulted in the Welsh Intermediate Education Act (1889), and he served on both the 1916–17 Royal Commission on University Education in Wales—which was chaired by Haldane—and on the 1918 departmental committee on adult education, in which year he also visited the United States as a member of the British University Investigative Committee.

(p.519) The philosophy which lay behind this involvement was that moral education was a right, and consequently that the state had a duty to educate people; but that such education should allow citizens to develop and set free their latent capacities, rather than regiment or subdue them. They should not be educated for the sake of the state (as he felt was the case in Germany) nor for industrialization (as he felt was too often the case in Britain), rather ‘the true education of the citizen, the education which is the best for him and also for the state, is that which educates him for his own sake; and not for any ulterior purpose. It must terminate in him.’236

Like Jones, throughout his career Haldane was involved in education. Some of his earliest political efforts were with the Universities in Scotland Bill (1889) and with the University of London Bill (1897), while later he was closely involved in the granting of university status to several of the provincial colleges: Birmingham (1900), Liverpool (1903), Manchester (1903), Leeds (1904), Sheffield (1905), and Bristol (1909). (He became the second chancellor of Bristol University from 1912 until his death.) He chaired both the Royal Commission on London University (1909–13)237 and the Royal Commission into University Education in Wales (1916–17), the latter on which Henry Jones also served. He was involved in the setting up of the London School of Economics (LSE) (1895), the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) (1903), and Imperial College (1907). He also helped to establish The British Institute of Adult Education (which came into being in 1921 at his home at Queen Anne's Gate, London).238

The credo behind Haldane's educational work was a belief that ‘to all men and women the State should give the right to get such instruction as would free them from the depressing effects of circumstances for which they were not responsible, and which were preventing them from individually having a real chance in life’.239 Echoing Green's suggestion that being uneducated is akin to being crippled, he argued, ‘knowledge is power more really to-day than ever before.…You are hopelessly handicapped in the race of life unless you have knowledge, and it must be the concern of the State, in driving after the ideal of equality, to secure that every man and woman has a chance of knowing.’240 But the freedom education brings is, of course, an idealist freedom; that is, a freedom to serve, and for this reason people need not just abstract knowledge, but a moral education which tells them ‘that their own lives are a trust to be carried out for the benefit of those around them as well as for themselves’.241

(p.520) Haldane spoke of the ‘double function of our educational institutions, the imparting of culture for culture's sake on the one hand, and the application of science to the training of our captains of industry on the other’,242 but how to achieve this was a matter on which his ideas changed. In early writings he suggests that the German system had succeeded far better than the British in meeting this two-fold aim with its separation of technical and classical education,243 and he was especially keen to introduce into Britain the German Technische Hochschule model;244 something which he finally did with the creation of Imperial College. However, by his 1912 Bristol University address, he was more amenable to the thought that a single institution could unify both elements,245 and even later, we find him complaining of the division between humanities and the sciences, claiming that too early a separation (at secondary school level) has served Germany badly.246 In a near contemporaneous address, Muirhead, on the eve of the transition of Mason's College (where he was Professor of Philosophy) into Birmingham University, reflecting on ‘the function which a University performs in opening the minds of the men and women who come within its influence to new ideals as to the meaning of life, and in enabling them to understand and enjoy the best things which it has to offer’,247 urged a similarly liberal education that combines science with art and literature, knowledge with feeling, yoked together by philosophy in the practical moral service of humanity.

A great many of the Idealists were concerned to promote education for women. Together with Henry Nettleship, R.L. Nettleship's brother, Green set up the Association for the Higher Education of Women in Oxford. An early success was the establishment in 1876 of a university college in Bristol (which later became Bristol University), open to both men and women. Green was a member of its council.248 Caird too was a tireless campaigner for women's education. From 1868 he offered short courses of lectures to women, in 1877 these being done more systematically under the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women (chaired by his brother, John). In 1883 the Association developed into Queen Margaret College, for which Caird continued to lecture and on whose Governing Board he served. Only in 1892 were women finally admitted into the University, into which the College was then incorporated.249 After coming to Balliol he joined the Oxford Association for the Higher Education of Women and was its President for the last ten years of his life. He was Chair of the Oxford Home Students committee—which looked after the other women students in Oxford, and served as vice-president of the Council of Somerville (p.521) College. He was one of the hundred and forty MA's who in 1895 presented a proposal to Hebdomadal Council to admit women to degrees.250 The proposal was rejected, and in the end Oxford did not allow women to attain degrees until 1922.

Women were not only recipients of education, but (outside the universities) in large part its providers. These women teachers needed training, and in this connection mention should be made of Millicent Mackenzie.251 In 1892 University College Cardiff established a department for the training of women as secondary school teachers and she was appointed as its first Head; elevated in 1904 to Associate Professor of Education and in 1910 to full Professor (thereby making her the first woman professor in Britain252), which position she held until her retirement in 1915. In 1898 she married the philosopher J.S. Mackenzie, whose idealist views she shared. Her most important book, Hegel's Educational Theory and Practice, which was published in 1909, is a notable early foray into a still neglected area. Admitting that Hegel wrote no specific treatise on education, she nevertheless argues that it is possible to piece together his philosophy of education drawing on his general philosophical writings, his letters, and the addresses which he delivered as Rector of the Nürnberg Gymnasium. She argues that for Hegel education was essential in the evolutionary process whereby we come to a self-conscious realization of our relation to the universe at large; a breaking away of self-estrangement from our purely natural life to a higher spiritual life; a losing one's life in order to find it. The emphasis is on the training of intellect and moral character rather than the senses or the imagination, and for this purpose, in the matter of curriculum, Hegel argued for the pre-eminent place of classics. Mackenzie's book is basically exposition but, although supportive, it is not without an awareness of the difficulties of Hegel's position, such as his disparaging view of women's education (women, he claims, can be trained only in ‘picture thinking’ unlike men who can be trained in ‘thought’) and his overemphasis on the intellectual side of mind at the expense of feeling.

14.6 Idealism and international relations

The political philosophy of the Idealists revolved around the state. But what connection has this with the nation-state of actual political life? And what bearing has it on issues of nationalism or internationalism? From the beginning, and increasingly so, these questions pressed themselves; fed also by contemporary events, for this was the period of the expansion of empires, the first and second Boer Wars, and the Great War.253

(p.522) Some of Muirhead's earliest writings were on the topic of imperialism. To begin with, he insists, we must separate all historical questions of how or by what right the empire was won, from questions concerning the responsibilities it now entails.254 We have a duty of care and nurture, part of our ‘obligation to the wider whole of Humanity’.255 This duty is to develop (not ‘reconstruct’) the moral, industrial, and spiritual ideas of some four or five hundred million people, in best accord with their own races;256 not to destroy their own forms of the General Will, but foster what is best in them.257 Our mission must be to teach European ideas of truth, justice, and science, for ‘Justice is justice, and science is science, all the world over’.258 But to go beyond this and make Europe the model in all things is to go too far. More often than not, we have not done enough to understand the people we are trying to educate.259 We need to encourage in them a sense of loyalty to us and of dependence on the institutions of government we have brought them, for security, prosperity, and freedom,260 but once the people know what good governance is, matters may be trusted to them.261 He reminds readers that Green was clear that people need to be not just passive recipients of protection, but active participants in self-government, if the state is to earn their loyalty.262 For the British empire this is still theory, an aspiration, but however distant a goal, it is an ideal that must never be lost sight of.263

Henry Jones also endorsed a species of self-critical and benevolent imperialism. He was as ready as Muirhead to admit historical wrongs. After the 1899–1902 Boer War, for example, he allowed that Britain's ‘blatant imperialism and reckless greed’ had ‘left a stain upon the national honour’.264 And during the Great War he conceded that it was not ‘to convert the heathen’ or ‘to spread civilisation’ that we took our empire but rather ‘in the way of business’, and in that cause, ‘We have been as ruthless, and we have been as ready to plead “the rights of the higher civilisation over the lower,” as the German people are to day.’265

But notwithstanding these admissions, Jones thought empire a high calling. He praises journalists who have helped create ‘the throb of the larger Citizenship’. ‘It is (p.523) owing to you, in great part,’ he says ‘that our people is one people and our Empire one Empire. Nay, you bind nation to nation, and involve the fate of one in the fate of all the others.’266 The ultimate justification or not of empire lies in the way in which it discharges the great responsibility it has to raise up its subject peoples. For Jones the true individual—the individual for whose sake the state exists—is not what each of us is, but what he has it in him to become. But the nurturing duties of states towards their citizens hold equally of empires towards their contained nations which, he thinks, is something we cannot keep too constantly in view in dealing with India or other underdeveloped nations.267 Our sole imperial duty is to help the nations we govern to become all that they have in them to become. Not only are the interests of the empire one with those of its subject nations, they are equally harmonious with those of other non-subject nations. ‘The British Empire, by its political and social progress, by its science and inventions and industrial enterprise, has benefited every country with which it has held intercourse. And other nations have done the same to us. Their good is ours, and ours theirs.’268 Gradually co-operation in common ends and mutual service come to replace rivalry and antagonism, and if a measure of egoism must remain (for a nation cannot without contradiction sacrifice itself) it becomes an ‘enlightened egoism’, ‘which recognises that the good which is exclusive is a false good’.269 Jones therefore opposes protectionism.

A similarly high-minded imperialism is advocated by Mackenzie. Writing in 1900, it seemed to him that almost overnight people had woken up to find themselves members, not simply of a country but of an empire.270 If just as a generation ago the moral consciousness of society had largely shifted from an individualistic to a social perspective,271 it was time again for a further ‘expansion of interest’. The need was to wake up to the fact that ‘we have relations and obligations all over the surface of the earth’, and thus that we must treat our empire not just as a commercial asset or national adornment but embrace instead a ‘true imperialism’ which involves ‘the recognition that we have our part to play with others in the great task of advancing humanity, that we have to join heartily with others in the promotion of peace, liberty, justice, and enlightenment, to which we hope all nations will be more and more devoted’.272

For Edward Caird, the ethical growth that takes us from family, to community to nation cannot stop there but must end in the cause of humanity as a whole, not ‘as a mere aggregate of individuals, but rather as a growing social unity, a family of nations which, in spite of their differences and oppositions, are very gradually, but still certainly, being drawn together, and made into the members of one organism, a (p.524) world community, in which each has a special function to discharge’.273 Admitting that at present ‘this still remains in great part an idea’274 and that, ‘The world as a whole does not at present look much like such a society’,275 he nonetheless saw in the political developments of his day encouraging signs of movement in that direction.276

Specifically Caird saw a large role for the British empire in that globalizing mission. ‘We have become the great colonising nation, and the nation that has shown the greatest power of gaining the mastery over uncivilised races’ with whom we have made an effort ‘such as perhaps hardly any other nation has made, to make our government tend to the good of the governed’.277 And he told his students, ‘There is no harm, rather there is the greatest good, in our being full of zeal for the imperial glory of England, if and so far as that glory is the glory of greater service, the glory of raising barbarous races to civilization and Christianity, the glory of extending the empire of peace and justice among men.’278 Well he might say so, for the Balliol of his mastership had done much to fuel its expansion—in one address (c.1899) Caird reflected upon the enormous contribution that Balliol men had made to society and to the empire, far outstripping any other educational institution.279

But if the Master of Balliol is confident, he is not complacent. Nor does he think that imperialism may be given carte blanche. Patriotism can never be a matter of ‘my country right or wrong’, for we are not simply servants, but members, of our state, each with a degree of responsibility for the direction in which the whole is going.280 We must hold our nation to account. Moreover, when we do so, by no means does everything look well. Our overseas activities have suffered from an unfortunate ‘mingling of higher and lower motives, of gain and gospel, which have often caused us to be accused of hypocrisy by other nations’.281 For imperialism pursued with thoughts ‘of selfish triumph, of commercial success and material aggrandisement and military glory’282 is to be abhorred. Such reservations make it clear that Caird was no die-hard imperialist (in the Kipling mould) and they are what lay behind his opposition to British action in the Boer War and his protest against the award of an honorary doctorate to Cecil Rhodes.283

(p.525) Like Green, Bosanquet was sceptical about a universal brotherhood of men. Though to be admitted as an ethical ideal,284 the notion of all mankind as a single community is far from fact. There is no political unity larger than the state. Nothing in Bosanquet's writing rules out a world-state in principle, he merely thought that the limits of shared common life were de facto fixed by the nation-state.285 In fact he gave cautious welcome to the League of Nations.286 But given that there is no ‘world community’ it is a mistake to regard the morality of states as functioning like that of the individuals within them. He would not deny that states have moral duties to each other, or that their normal relations are ones of co-operation rather than competition,287 but the situation is more than just a ‘scaling up’ of the ordinary case. For example, existing solely for the sake of its citizens, the state has an absolute duty to protect itself and its resources from external aggression, in a way no individual could claim an absolute right to self-defence or private property.

In his article on ‘Higher Nationality’, an address delivered before the American bar association at Montreal, Haldane too considered the prospects for a world-state, asking whether the binding force—the shared social life—that holds within nations might not hold also between nations?288 ‘There is, I think, nothing in the real nature of nationality that precludes such a possibility,’289 he says, but there is a very long road to travel before we can get there.290 A world union, an international sittlichkeit, would be the ideal, but this is most likely to come about first by smaller unions of countries, and in this connection he suggests that ‘Canada and Great Britain on the one hand and the United States on the other, with their common language, their common interests, and their common ends, form something resembling a single society’.291 This is also the context for his endorsement of the suggestion of an Imperial University, a sort of ‘post-graduate research college, where students from every part of the empire could come to carry their scientific training further than is possible in the less specialised colonial and other Universities’.292 He suggests the newly constituted University of London might play that role.


(1) It should be noted that the canonical idealist texts in political and ethical philosophy exercised a much longer-lasting influence—extending well into the 1930s and even the 1940s—than did those in logic or metaphysics.

(2) Philosophical Theory of the State, Preface vii.

(3) Muirhead, Bernard Bosanquet and his Friends, 92–3. The London School of Ethics and Social Philosophy functioned from 1897 to 1900. See Mackillop, ‘The London School of Ethics and Social Philosophy’.

(4) Philosophical Theory of the State, 19.

(5) Philosophical Theory of the State, 20.

(6) Philosophical Theory of the State, 28.

(7) Philosophical Theory of the State, 39–40.

(8) Philosophical Theory of the State, 46–7.

(9) Philosophical Theory of the State, 47.

(10) Philosophical Theory of the State, 48. For further discussion of this topic see Collini, ‘Sociology and Idealism’ and Boucher and Vincent, British Idealism and Political Theory, ch. 3.

(11) See above sections 3.5.3 and 3.5.6.

(12) Philosophical Theory of the State, 6.

(13) Republic, V:462.

(14) Philosophical Theory of the State, 6–7.

(15) ‘How to Read the New Testament’, 151.

(16) Politics, 1261a25. It will be remembered that A.C. Bradley also notes this point (‘Aristotle's Conception of the State’, 205).

(17) Politics, 1253a5.

(18) ‘Kingdom of God on Earth’, 116.

(19) Sweet, Idealism and Rights, 159–60.

(20) Philosophical Theory of the State, 158.

(21) Philosophical Theory of the State, 189. Bosanquet is here quoting Green from his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (§11 note), himself quoting Henrici, although the notion of ‘human perfection’ appears often enough in Green's own Prolegomena (see above Chapter 6 note 74).

(22) Philosophical Theory of the State, 6.

(23) Philosophical Theory of the State, 185.

(24) Philosophical Theory of the State, 75. Contemporary thought would most naturally call these ‘individualist’ but, as we have seen, that term for Bosanquet has quite other meanings.

(25) Philosophical Theory of the State, 79.

(26) ‘Les Idées Politiques de Rousseau’, 323, 329. The Section G heading to Green's Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, ‘Will, Not Force, is the Basis of the State’, was in fact chosen by Nettleship, but it reflects perfectly Green's meaning. See, for example, §136.

(27) Philosophical Theory of the State, 101 n2.

(28) Philosophical Theory of the State, 102.

(29) Philosophical Theory of the State, 104.

(30) Philosophical Theory of the State, 111.

(31) Philosophical Theory of the State, 100.

(32) Philosophical Theory of the State, 100.

(33) Nicholson, Political Philosophy of the British Idealists, 204.

(34) Sweet, Idealism and Rights, 131.

(35) Nicholson, Political Philosophy of the British Idealists, 208; Sweet, Idealism and Rights, 132 n.90.

(36) Tyler, Idealist Political Philosophy, 142–3.

(37) The Social Contract, bk IV ch.II.

(38) The Philosophy of Right, Part II (esp §258); see also Taylor, Hegel, 372–88. The term is commonly rendered as ‘ethical life’.

(39) Philosophical Theory of the State, 246.

(40) Philosophical Theory of the State, 144.

(41) Principle of Individuality and Value, 311, n.1.

(42) Metaphysical Theory of the State, 75–6.

(43) Collini, ‘Hobhouse, Bosanquet and the State’, 87.

(44) Tyler, Idealist Political Philosophy, 153.

(45) Panagokou, ‘Defending Bosanquet's Philosophical Theory of the State’, 36.

(46) ‘Patriotism in the Perfect State’, 137.

(47) Nicholson, Political Philosophy of the British Idealists, 214.

(48) Philosophical Theory of the State, 171.

(49) Philosophical Theory of the State, 133.

(50) Philosophical Theory of the State, 221.

(51) Philosophical Theory of the State, 125–8.

(52) Philosophical Theory of the State, 128.

(53) Philosophical Theory of the State, 195.

(54) Sweet, Idealism and Rights, 65. A right is ‘a power secured in order to fill a position’ (Philosophical Theory of the State, 196).

(55) Philosophical Theory of the State, 188.

(56) Philosophical Theory of the State, 189. See above note 21.

(57) Philosophical Theory of the State, ch.VIII §6.

(58) Philosophical Theory of the State, 139.

(59) Philosophical Theory of the State, 199.

(60) Philosophical Theory of the State, 175–6.

(61) Philosophical Theory of the State, 177–87.

(62) Bosanquet himself worries that Green is too tentative about such interference (Philosophical Theory of the State, ix, 267–70).

(63) Philosophical Theory of the State, 171.

(64) ‘The Affinity of Philosophy and Casework’, 170.

(65) Philosophical Theory of the State, 179.

(66) Philosophical Theory of the State, 281.

(67) Aspects of the Social Problem, 311, 312.

(68) ‘The Principle of Private Property’, 311.

(69) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 200.

(70) Thomas, ‘Philosophy and Ideology in Bernard Bosanquet's Political Philosophy’, 115.

(71) Aspects of the Social Problem, 290–1.

(72) For further discussion of Bosanquet's theory of punishment see Tyler, ‘This Dangerous Drug of Violence’.

(73) Some Suggestions in Ethics, 193.

(74) Some Suggestions in Ethics, 195.

(75) Some Suggestions in Ethics, 197; Philosophical Theory of the State, 211.

(76) Some Suggestions in Ethics, 195.

(77) Philosophical Theory of the State, 206.

(78) Philosophical Theory of the State, 207.

(79) Philosophical Theory of the State, 208.

(80) Philosophical Theory of the State, 207.

(81) Philosophical Theory of the State, 211.

(82) Philosophical Theory of the State, 212.

(83) Some Suggestions in Ethics, 202.

(84) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 198.

(85) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 197, 210. For example, levying the same tax on those who can afford to pay and on those who can't.

(86) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 198.

(87) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 211.

(88) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 206.

(89) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 206.

(90) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 207.

(91) ‘Three Lectures on Social Ideals’, 209.

(92) Rashdall, Review of Philosophical Theory of the State, 544–5.

(93) One of the interesting features of this book is how at the same time as trying to assimilate Bosanquet to Hegel, he seeks to distance him from Bradley or Green, who he sees as immune from most of the criticisms (Metaphysical Theory of the State, 24, 83, 99, 118–25).

(94) See for example Joad, Liberty Today, 182 and Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, ch.12.

(95) Metaphysical Theory of the State, 17, 45.

(96) Philosophical Theory of the State, 110.

(97) Sweet, Idealism and Rights, 131.

(98) Philosophical Theory of the State, 110.

(99) As Bosanquet sees it, for Plato ‘the social life and experience is that of one mind in a number of bodies, whose consciousnesses, formally separate, are materially identical in very different degrees’ (Principle of Individuality and Value, 314).

(100) Philosophical Theory of the State, 146ff.

(101) Philosophical Theory of the State, 159.

(102) ‘Reality of the General Will’, 321.

(103) Thomas ‘Philosophy and Ideology in Bernard Bosanquet's Political Philosophy’, 110.

(104) ‘Reality of the General Will’, 328.

(105) ‘Reality of the General Will’, 331.

(106) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 20.

(107) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 21.

(108) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 46.

(109) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 47.

(110) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 48.

(111) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 49.

(112) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 49–51.

(113) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 51.

(114) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 52.

(115) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 54–5. Jones does not, of course, think it impossible to change such people, or that we should do nothing for them.

(116) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 56.

(117) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 56. For further discussion see Boucher, ‘Henry Jones: Idealism as a Practical Creed’, 144–9.

(118) ‘The Child and Heredity’, 176.

(119) For detailed discussion see Boucher, ‘Practical Hegelianism’.

(120) See sections 6.3.2 and 14.1.5 above.

(121) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 34.

(122) Mark 4:28.

(123) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 59.

(124) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 8.

(125) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 106.

(126) The Principles of Citizenship, 90.

(127) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 55.

(128) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 108.

(129) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 87. ‘O God…whose service is perfect freedom’ reads the Collect for Peace in the Book of Common Prayer.

(130) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 117.

(131) ‘Is the Order of Nature Opposed to the Moral Life?’, 10.

(132) The Principles of Citizenship, 86; also 114.

(133) The Principles of Citizenship, 14.

(134) ‘The Library as a Maker of Character’, 222. Cf. D.G. Ritchie, ‘Ideas can only be productive in full benefit, if they are fixed in institutions’ (Darwinism and Politics, 38).

(135) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 26–33.

(136) Henry Jones, ‘Francis Hutcheson’, 20. Cf Edward Caird above p.209.

(137) The Principles of Citizenship, 56. On the true sense of freedom see esp. Idealism as a Practical Creed, Chs.III–VI.

(138) Idealism as a Practical Creed, 38–9; also ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 45–6; Principles of Citizenship, 83.

(139) See above section The Principles of Citizenship, 57–61.

(140) ‘Social Responsibilities’, 305.

(141) The Principles of Citizenship, 46.

(142) ‘Moral Aspect of the Fiscal Question’, 122–3.

(143) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 114. ‘It is a wrong to the State to regard it as a mere organ of secular force, and its policy as having no ethical character. It never is a mere secular force, and its might, in reference to its own citizens, is always measured by its moral right; for it itself is nothing else than the embodied conscience of the people’ (‘Moral Aspect of the Fiscal Question’, 123).

(144) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 113.

(145) The Principles of Citizenship, 136–7. ‘So far as I can see, a good and wise State cannot have too much liberty or power or sovereignty, nor an evil and foolish one too little’ (The Principles of Citizenship, 63).

(146) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 107.

(147) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 108.

(148) The Principles of Citizenship, 109.

(149) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 113–14.

(150) The Principles of Citizenship, 132.

(151) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 114.

(152) ‘Moral Aspect of the Fiscal Question’, 122.

(153) The Principles of Citizenship, 137.

(154) The Principles of Citizenship, 128.

(155) The Principles of Citizenship, 131–2.

(156) The Principles of Citizenship, 152.

(157) The Principles of Citizenship, 123, 126.

(158) The Principles of Citizenship, 127.

(159) ‘Social and Individual Evolution’, 233–4.

(160) The Principles of Citizenship, 109.

(161) The Principles of Citizenship, 89.

(162) The Principles of Citizenship, 53.

(163) ‘Social Responsibilities’, 270–2.

(164) ‘Social and Individual Evolution’, 237.

(165) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 93.

(166) ‘Idealism and Politics’, 215.

(167) ‘Idealism and Politics’, 216.

(168) ‘Social Responsibilities’, 286.

(169) ‘Moral Aspect of the Fiscal Question’, 134.

(170) ‘Social Responsibilities’, 298; See also ‘The Corruption of the Citizenship of the Working Man’, esp.175–7; also Hetherington, The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Jones, 92.

(171) ‘Social Responsibilities’, 285.

(172) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 96–100. He is here basically following Green.

(173) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 94.

(174) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 98.

(175) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 99.

(176) ‘Working Faith of the Social Reformer’, 100.

(177) Muirhead's estimate of Green is comparable to and near contemporaneous with that of John MacCunn, in his Six Radical Thinkers.

(178) Social Purpose, 37.

(179) Social Purpose, 97.

(180) Social Purpose, 102.

(181) Social Purpose, 99–100.

(182) Social Purpose, 109.

(183) Editor's Preface to Birmingham Institutions, vii.

(184) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 10.

(185) Social Purpose, 65.

(186) Social Purpose, 87.

(187) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 10.

(188) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 22.

(189) Reflections by a Journeyman, 160–1.

(190) Social Purpose, 83.

(191) Social Purpose, 84.

(192) ‘Recent Criticism of the Idealist theory of the General Will’, 171–2.

(193) ‘Recent Criticism of the Idealist theory of the General Will’, 174.

(194) ‘Recent Criticism of the Idealist theory of the General Will’, 24.

(195) ‘Recent Criticism of the Idealist theory of the General Will’, 238.

(196) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 13.

(197) Social Purpose, 108.

(198) ‘Spirit of Democracy’, 429.

(199) ‘Spirit of Democracy’, 429.

(200) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 15.

(201) ‘Spirit of Democracy’, 428–9.

(202) ‘Spirit of Democracy’, 431.

(203) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 19.

(204) ‘Philosophy and Social Reform’, 20.

(205) See below p.552.

(206) ‘The New Liberalism’, 141–1. It is to the words of Green's ‘Liberal Legislation’ address that Haldane turns in attempting further to explicate this notion (ibid. 135–7).

(207) ‘Liberal Party and its Prospects’, 155.

(208) ‘Future of Democracy’, 9.

(209) ‘Every man and woman is, after all, a citizen in a State. Therefore let us see to it that there is not lacking that interest in the larger life of the social whole which is the justification of a real title to have a voice and a vote’ (‘Conduct of Life’, 22).

(210) ‘Future of Democracy’, 9–10. See below pp.517–21 for more on education.

(211) ‘The Liberal Creed’, 467.

(212) ‘Future of Democracy’, 8–9.

(213) ‘Future of Democracy’, 11.

(214) ‘Higher Nationality’, 122.

(215) ‘Higher Nationality’, 121.

(216) Pathway, 42.

(217) ‘The Meaning of Truth in History’, 47.

(218) ‘Nature of the State,’ 766.

(219) ‘Nature of the State’, 766–7.

(220) ‘Higher Nationality’, 112.

(221) ‘Higher Nationality’, 113.

(222) ‘Higher Nationality’, 113.

(223) ‘Higher Nationality’, 114.

(224) ‘Higher Nationality’, 115.

(225) ‘Higher Nationality’, 116.

(226) ‘Higher Nationality’, 116.

(227) ‘Nature of the State’, 768.

(228) ‘Nature of the State’, 769.

(229) ‘Higher Nationality’, 118.

(230) ‘Nature of the State’, 772.

(231) ‘Nature of the State’, 773.

(232) University Addresses, 381–2.

(233) Lay Sermons, 19.

(234) University Addresses, 367. Cf. Jones, ‘The Library as a Maker of Character’, 219.

(235) With the exception of Bradley.

(236) The Principles of Citizenship, 133. ‘To employ education for the formation of the soul for any purpose other than its own direct good is to pervert the uses of education. Its value and end is to emancipate, not to enslave. Education is the condition of freedom, as freedom is the condition of all the virtues’ (‘Education of the Citizen’, 239).

(237) One of whose recommendations was that Birkbeck College be admitted into the University of London for part-time and evening students. In 1919 he became President of the College, working for this aim, which was achieved in 1920. He remained its President until his death in 1928.

(238) For further details on all these see Lockwood, ‘Haldane and Education’.

(239) Autobiography, 301.

(240) ‘Future of Democracy’, 10. cf. Green, ‘Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract’, 374–5.

(241) ‘Future of Democracy’, 21.

(242) Education and Empire, x.

(243) Education and Empire, 27.

(244) Education and Empire, 24ff.

(245) ‘The Civic University’, 89–90.

(246) Education After the War, 3, 22. Jones too was ambivalent about German education, clear about the advance it had given them, but lamenting its lack of moral basis (‘The Education of the Citizen’, 229–41).

(247) ‘Liberal Education’, 139.

(248) Gordon and White, Philosophers as Educational Reformers, 84.

(249) Jones and Muirhead, Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird, 96–101.

(250) Jones and Muirhead, Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird, 150–2.

(251) For more details see John Stuart Mackenzie, ch.IX.

(252) An achievement sometimes mistakenly attributed to Caroline Spurgeon (1869–1942) who appointed Professor of English Literature at London University in 1913.

(253) The last of these will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

(254) The Service of State, 106.

(255) Social Purpose, 265.

(256) The Service of State, 106.

(257) The Service of State, 107.

(258) ‘What Imperialism Means’, 249.

(259) ‘What Imperialism Means’, 250.

(260) The Service of State, 109.

(261) The Service of State, 110.

(262) The Service of State, 11. Lectures on Principles of Political Obligation, §122. In consequence Green approves of the way in which the British in India have left native traditions largely to function in their own way encouraging natural indigenous development (§90).

(263) The Service of State, 112.

(264) ‘Idealism and Politics’, 184.

(265) ‘Why we are fighting’, 56. The War evoked a similar admission by A.C. Bradley: ‘In our Empire-making we did things we cannot justify, and the Empire made becomes an object of envy and a cause of war’ (‘International Morality: The United States Of Europe’, 59).

(266) ‘Journalism and Citizenship’, 65.

(267) Principles of Citizenship, 145.

(268) ‘Moral Aspects of the Fiscal Question’, 146.

(269) ‘Moral Aspects of the Fiscal Question’, 147.

(270) ‘The Source of Moral Obligation’, 469.

(271) ‘The Source of Moral Obligation’, 468.

(272) ‘The Source of Moral Obligation’, 477–8.

(273) Lay Sermons, 61.

(274) Lay Sermons, 61.

(275) Lay Sermons, 42.

(276) Lay Sermons, 62. Ritchie too approves the existence of a few great ‘empires’ as a possible staging post towards a future ‘world-federation’ (‘War and Peace’, 151).

(277) Lay Sermons, 113–14.

(278) Lay Sermons, 254.

(279) Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird, 375–6.

(280) Lay Sermons, 117.

(281) Lay Sermons, 115.

(282) Lay Sermons, 254.

(283) In a letter preserved in the Bodleian Library which the Vice-Chancellor refused to publish in the Oxford Gazette, but which subsequently appeared in The Times for 20 June 1899, eighty-eight members of Congregation (the body of Oxford academics) including Edward Caird, E. Abott, J.A. Smith, F.C.S. Schiller, C.C.J. Webb, H.H. Joachim, J. Burnet, Hastings Rashdall, H.W.B. Joseph, and James Drummond expressed their regret at his receiving a degree. It was rumoured that the Proctors, both liberals, would protest during the ceremony. But Lord Kitchener stepped in threatening not to take his degree if Rhodes was prevented from taking his. Jones and Muirhead, Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird, 153–4; Symonds, Oxford and Empire, 163. In September 1899, Caird wrote again to The Times on the subject of the war. It is worth noting that not all Idealists took this line—Haldane was a strong supporter of the Boer War (Autobiography, 135–9).

(284) Philosophical Theory of the State, 305.

(285) ‘The Function of the State in Promoting the Unity of Mankind’, 294. Although the belief that man will inevitably advance to a single political body he regards as a ‘naive form of optimism’ akin to that which looks forward to the removal of all evil (ibid. 299).

(286) Philosophical Theory of the State, lix–lxi.

(287) ‘The Function of the State in Promoting the Unity of Mankind’, 277.

(288) ‘Higher Nationality’, 126.

(289) ‘Higher Nationality’, 127.

(290) ‘Higher Nationality’, 128.

(291) ‘Higher Nationality’, 129, 101. Haldane's account of this trans-Atlantic proposal is worth comparing with A.C. Bradley's consideration of Kant's suggestion of a united states of Europe (‘International Morality: The United States of Europe’, 67ff). Bosanquet thinks such unions lack the necessary spirit of community to ever succeed (‘Patriotism in the Perfect State’, 136–7).

(292) Education and Empire, 36.