An Introduction to Bradley's Metaphysics

By W. J. Mander | Go to book overview
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PHILOSOPHICAL reputations wax and wane as each new generation considers the problems of philosophy afresh, and rewrites its history in the light of how it sees matters. Though perhaps inevitable, this dynamic, which in other aspects of life goes under the name of fashion, rarely makes for good criticism. Distortions and misunderstandings occur, as thinkers are squeezed into preconceived categories dictated by a certain world-view, rather than being allowed to stand in their own right as individuals, often with complex and multiple allegiances, who resist capture under any one simple label.

Few philosophers have experienced such rapid and radically changing fortunes as F. H. Bradley. In his heyday Bradley was held by many to be perhaps the greatest living philosopher in Britain. For instance, his book Appearance and Reality was described by Stout, the long-time editor of Mind, as having accomplished as much as is humanly possible in ontology.1 Yet this high esteem among his supporters produced little by the way of serious critical commentary on his work. Nor was opinion on his philosophy undivided. From the beginning of the twentieth century there existed a small but rapidly growing group of philosophers, led initially by Russell and Moore, who were wholly opposed to Bradley in both philosophical temperament and opinion. It was this school that eventually came to dominate the philosophical scene, with the result that, by the middle of the century, Bradley's popularity had waned and his philosophy was almost universally rejected. Yet this did not make for better criticism, for much of this opposition largely failed to make contact with his real views, attacking but an imaginary or caricatured figure. None the less his detractors won the day, and since then Bradley's thought has been by and large neglected.

This is a great shame. For, while his views are more defensible than is commonly believed, and of great intrinsic interest, they are largely either unknown or known only in a highly distorted and

According to Russell ( 1927), 38.


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