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T. H. Green: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Political Philosophy$
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Maria Dimova-Cookson and William J. Mander

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199271665

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199271665.001.0001

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Green's Idealism and the Metaphysics of Ethics

Green's Idealism and the Metaphysics of Ethics

(p.160) 7 Green's Idealism and the Metaphysics of Ethics
T. H. Green: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Political Philosophy
Leslie Armour
Oxford University Press

Green's metaphysics is essential for the understanding and defence of his ethics and his political theory. As such it must seem to be problematic, for he concedes that ‘no proof’ in the ‘ordinary sense’ is forthcoming for his propositions. There is a reasonable demonstration, and his admission is not damning if one understands that he offers an account of experience within which the activity of agent plays a part which not only cannot be analysed away but which is the condition for making that experience intelligible. His account of experience grows out of his critique of Hume's account of relations and draws on Kant's notion that the ordering of experience cannot be simply ascribed to external objects. At a theoretical level, he wants to correct what he takes to be the deficiencies in Hume's analysis of experience and he wants to do so without falling into what he takes to be the Kantian trap. This chapter argues that this does involve a very complex solution to the problem of relations — essentially one which reduces relations to relational properties. Green did not grasp this, but the problem can be tackled. At a practical level, he hopes to lay the foundation for a moral critique of the political and social implications of a kind of social atomism which he believes to be firmly rooted in the analysis of experience which derives from Hume. His hope is to open the way for a theory of community and his work is a major foundation of social democratic political theory. It is in effect a ‘metaphysic of ethics’, but this is not a clear or simple notion. Green's human agents play a role which makes them in some measure responsible for their own experiences and, through shared ideas, for the communal experience.

Keywords:   eternal consciousness, relations, community, Keith Campbell, individuation

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