Thomas Hill Green was the most notable of the first generation of British Idealists. He was born in 1836 and spent almost the whole of his adult life at Oxford. He became Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1878 and died in 1882; for the decade or so before his death he was the dominant philosophical figure at Oxford. 1 I begin my account of the background to the early works of Moore and Russell with a discussion of Green's metaphysical views and not, as is more common, 2 with a discussion of F. H. Bradley's philosophy. Bradley's form of Idealism is, as we shall see in the next chapter, quite eccentric. One consequence of this is that focusing on Bradley gives a misleading impression of British Idealism in general. Moore and Russell were, however, reacting to all forms of Idealism, not only to Bradley's variety. A second consequence, which I at least have found, is that Bradley's views are very difficult to understand, and to explain, unless they are themselves seen as modifications of, and reactions to, a more standard form of Idealism. I begin, therefore, with Green.
Green was the first major British philosopher to assimilate German Idealism, to incorporate it, critically and selectively, into his own system of thought. 3 More directly than his German predecessors, Green was confronted by the powerful empiricist tradition of Locke, of Hume, and of their nineteenth-century followers. His own views were first worked out in detail in his lengthy criticism of Locke and of Hume (Works, i. 1-371), and he later applied the same principles to J. S. Mill, Herbert Spencer, and others (Works, ii. 195-306; i. 373-541). This fact