Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T.H. Green

Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T.H. Green

Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T.H. Green

Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T.H. Green


David Brink presents a study of T. H. Green's Prolegomena to Ethics (1883), a classic of British idealism. Green develops a perfectionist ethical theory that brings together the best elements in the ancient and modern traditions and that provides the moral foundations for Green's own influential brand of liberalism. Brink's book situates the Prolegomena in its intellectual context, examines its main themes, and explains Green's enduring significance for the history of ethics and contemporary ethical theory.


The neglect of the Prolegomena means that Green's ethical theory is not widely understood or appreciated. My primary aim is to help renew interest in and appreciation of Green's ethical theory. To do this, I need to focus on the main arguments in the Prolegomena. the variety and difficulty of some of the traditions on which he draws and the density of his own argument and prose pose challenges to the reader approaching the Prolegomena for the first time. in an effort to facilitate this encounter, my discussion will attempt to place the Prolegomena within Green's life, work, and intellectual context and to examine some of the main themes of the Prolegomena in some detail. in doing so, I will focus on the Prolegomena, but I will discuss Green's other works and his relation to other philosophers when this helps us better to understand the Prolegomena or its significance.

Ii green's life and work

Green was born in Birkin, Yorkshire, on 7 April 1836. His mother died when he was 1 year old, and he was educated by his father, Valentine Green, until he attended Rugby School in 1850. There he met Henry Sidgwick, though it is not clear how close their relationship was during this period. Rugby was an intellectually and morally serious institution, but Green struck many teachers and classmates as shy, unhappy, and indolent.

He entered Balliol College, at Oxford University, in 1855, where he was taught by Benjamin Jowett and Charles Parker. Though their relationship was not free of conflict, Jowett served as Green's most important intellectual mentor. Jowett was an influential proponent of liberal reforms within Oxford University at the time. He encouraged Green to work up to his potential, eventually earning a First in Greats, and he trained Green in both classical Greek and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German philosophy.

Green remained at Oxford after receiving his degree. He was appointed as a lecturer in ancient and modern history at Balliol in

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