Freedom and History

Freedom and History

Freedom and History

Freedom and History

Excerpt

The studies brought together in this book have all to do with some aspect of the problem of freedom and with the bearing on that problem of various views that have been held about history. In the first part of the book there are a number of studies of the moral and political theories of T. H. Green. These attempt to bring out the bases of Green's individualism and to show how easy is the transition from an extreme form of individualism to an equally inflexible form of authoritarianism or collectivism. The indebtedness of Green to Kant and Rousseau is indicated. This has relevance, I believe, to much that is in controversy at present; for many recent ethical writers have taken up positions very similar in substance to that of some post-Hegelian idealists. The notions of commitment and consistent willing advanced recently as key concepts in ethical theory have close affinities with the doctrines of Green and his successors among the British idealists, and it may thus not be unhelpful to remind ourselves of the difficulties which confronted idealist ethical writers and, above all, the impasse in which they found themselves over the question of moral perplexity. It is interesting, in the same connection, to note the renewal of interest in the work of T. H. Green, evidenced by numerous references to him in philosophical papers and in full-scale discussions like the elaborate work of Jean Pucelle, La nature et l'esprit dans la philosophie de T. H. Green.

Along with the studies of T. H. Green in the first part of this book there is included a discussion of G. F. Stout God and Nature. This is because the main theme of that book the notio of a universal mind', is supported by arguments which bear much resemblance to the arguments by which Green puts forward his doctrine of an 'Eternal Spiritual Principle in Nature'. It may interest the reader to see how such a position could be defended By a later and more subtle idealist thinker than Green. The paper on Stout is thus placed early in the volume and not with the papers on religious questions on which it also has a bearing.

The difficulties which confront T. H. Green, in dealing especially with the question of moral perplexity, are eased for him by his belief in inevitable progress gauaranteed by the notion of the Eternal Spiritual Principle which 'reproduces' itself in human life. This provides the main link between the first papers papers in this volume and the papers about the nature of history and the claim to objectivity in history which follow them. These in turn lead on to critical discussions of theological writers who make very unguarded references to history and sometimes write about religion and history without much heed to history as normally understood and studied. Such writings also illustrate vividly . . .

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