The Social Philosophy of English Idealism

The Social Philosophy of English Idealism

The Social Philosophy of English Idealism

The Social Philosophy of English Idealism

Excerpt

The word 'idealism' has a well established meaning in English. It is also the name of a school of philosophy. This book is concerned with the school of philosophy, not with idealism in the ordinary sense. It might be supposed that a clue to the general standpoint of the school could be found in the ordinary meaning of the word but this is not so. As the name of a school of philosophy, 'Idealism' refers to ideas rather than ideals. An Idealist philosopher is not, qua philosopher, an idealist in the ordinary sense. This does not mean that he has no concern with ideals. He has; but as a philosopher, not as a devotee.

At the turn of the century Idealism was perhaps the leading school of philosophy in the English-speaking world. Many professional philosophers approached their work in terms of its general standpoint and method. Today the situation is very different. There has occurred during the last two generations what has been described as 'a revolution in philosophy', one consequence of which has been the almost total eclipse of Idealism. Few contemporary philosophers have more than a superficial knowledge of it and fewer still have any interest in it. The general assumption is that it has been discredited by the philosophical revolution. But has it? To raise this question is not to deny that those who made the revolution had something to revolt against. It was largely a revolution against Idealism and there must have been something wrong with Idealism to provoke it. Nor is it to deny that valuable intellectual achievements have resulted from the revolution. But it is to question the assumption that the whole Idealist enterprise was unprofitable, that it was nothing but an unfortunate aberration in the development of modern philosophy. On a more positive note, it is to suggest that, notwithstanding certain defects, there may be something to be said for Idealism.

This book is an attempt to follow up that suggestion. It is a critical study of certain aspects of the work of four Idealist . . .

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