Bosanquet and the Legacy of British Idealism
September 1 and 2, 1999
Harris Manchester College, Oxford
Abstracts of papers

Bosanquet, Santayana, and Aesthetics

Philip MacEwen
Division of Humanities, 262 Vanier College,
York University,
4700 Keele Street,
North York, ON M3J 1P3 CANADA
E-mail: <>
fax: 416-736-5460

Santayana's philosophy is fundamentally an attempt to unite naturalism and idealism. While its distinction between existence and essence might be construed as a separation between naturalism and idealism, Santayana saw this as a means of uniting them. Essences do not exist through they are temporally dependent on existence for their being since they are instantiated in it. However, essences retain their character as essences, whether they are instantiated or not. This may suggest another world which is distinct from the present one but Santayana insists that everything has both and existential and an essential pole. Essence is "just that character which any existence wears in so far as it remains identical with itself." The world of essence is not another world but the qualitative dimension of the one in which we already live.

Long before he formulated the doctrine of essences, Santayana described beauty as "pleasure regarded as the quality of things" or "pleasure objectified." He later reformulated this, claiming in his final statement on the subject that "beauty [is] a vital harmony felt and fused into an image under the form of eternity." Neither description is true to the fundamental aim of Santayana's philosophy, however, since the first distinguishes existence from essence without uniting them while the latter combines two essences--a pleasure or "vital harmony" and an image--with themselves but not with existence.

This paper will argue that Santayana's aesthetics are premissed on a metaphysical distinction which cannot be sustained. One way of resolving the problem, that respects both naturalism and idealism, is Bernard Bosanquet's answer to the question,"How are feeling and its body created adequate to each other?" According to Bosanquet, beauty is the fusion of body and soul, where the soul is a feeling and the body its expression, which elicits pleasure or admiration in the audience. Thus construed, beauty is neither simply a feeling nor a state of affairs. Rather it is a feeling about a state of affairs elicited by the fusion of body and soul therein. Such a response respects naturalism because it precludes the possibility of disembodied beauty, idealism because feeling is requisite for beauty, and the unity of idealism and naturalism because beauty is the fusion of feeling and its expression and the feeling elicited thereby.

Bosanquet, Aesthetics and Moral Education: Warding off Stupidity with Art

Elizabeth Trott
Philosophy Department,
Ryerson Polytechnic University,
350 Victoria Street,
Toronto, ON M5B 2K3
E-mail: <>

Bosanquet's odd titled article, "We Are Not Hard Enough On Stupidity," in Some Suggestions on Ethics, sends a simple message: Moral awareness means being interested in those values that reflect a community's qualitative aspirations to the good life. By interest, he means a capacity to detect the fine details of work and interpersonal relations, and a sense of satisfaction derived from the effort required to do so. Lack of interest signals stupidity, which is not a state of intellect as much as it is a state of mind accompanying ignorance. Bosanquet, in another article, "Artistic Handwork in Education," champions practise in the handicrafts as an educational tool for recognising details, beauty, and for knowing the satisfaction gained from seeking excellence beyond self gain. This short paper reveals the parallel message in the thrust of these two seemingly remote topics. It suggests, as does Bosanquet, that personal awareness of moral and aesthetic beauty, and hence the desire to participate in furthering these ends, is not inspired or activated by dictates and maxims. Instead it is experienced and acquired through practise-- what we today call, hands-on learning.

Bosanquet's Psychology of the Moral Self and the Legacy of Freudian Idealism

Marcia Allentuck,
Professor Emerita,
City College of New York
5 West 86 St., Apt 12 B
New York, NY 10024-3665

The exhibition to mark the centennial of the publication of Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams (1898-99) has just concluded at the Library of Congress and now moves, under the title, Freud's Conflict and Culture to the Jewish Museum in New York, to open for 3 months, beginning 18 April. In the year previous, Bosanquet's Psychology of the Moral Self (1897) also advanced a theory of psychological idealism--Freud's variant and Bosanquet's have much in common, although expressed in distinctly different contexts and forms. My paper will show how Bosanquet's approach deserves as much attention as Freud's, and how they each illuminate the other, making a suggestively complex concept of idealism in realtion to psychology and philosophy.

Bosanquet on the Ontology of Logic and the Method of Scientific Inquiry

Fred Wilson
Department of Philosophy,
University of Toronto,
Toronto, ON
fax 416-978-8703

Bernard Bosanquet developed his views on logic in a number of works, and in particular in his Logic. This work contains, alongside its own account of philosophical logic, a series of criticisms of empiricism. Among these are criticisms of the empiricist account of laws of nature and of the logical nature of inquiry into them. Bosanquet in particular criticizes the doctrine that laws are mere regularities. In making this criticism, he has been echoed by more recent philosophers, including David Armstrong, James Brown and Michael Tooley. I shall argue, however, that Bosanquet develops the position much more convincingly: he faces squarely, and solves, certain problems that they simply ignore. This solution to the problems is, however, inconsistent with standard assumptions of empiricism. In particular, it conflicts with the picture theory of meaning. In this respect is can fruitfully be compared with more recent criticisms of that position by one of its original defenders, Wittgenstein himself, and by Wittgenstein's student Michael Dummett.

Bosanquet, Idealism, and the Justification of Induction

Phillip Ferreira
Department of Philosophy
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530
Fax (610) 683-4246

This paper falls into three parts. In my opening remarks I briefly describe the classical "problem of induction"; I then quickly turn to the efforts of twentieth century philosophers to deal with the problem. Though my discussion is brief, I consider (a) the "pragmatic" account; (b) the "ordinary language" analysis; and (c) the "naturalized" explanation. I also provide some observations on the difficulties each of these responses carries with it.

The second section of the paper is also relatively brief. Here I describe the traditional idealist response to Hume. Beginning with Kant's "transcendental deduction" of the categories, I explain why according to subsequent critics (both German and British) this method falls short of its mark. I also consider--albeit only in outline--the expanded "categorial" approach that is provided by Hegel and his followers. The third (and lengthiest) part of my discussion deals with Bosanquet himself. Drawing from both Logic and the Morphology of Knowledge, and Implication and Linear Inference, I examine Bosanquet's non-categorial (but still "transcendental") defense of inductive inference. I conclude that of the various responses to Hume's problem, Bosanquet's is the least problematic.

Concrete Systematic Inference

James Allard
Montana State University
Bozeman, Montana 59717

In his Logic Bosanquet begins his discussion of inference by asking how it is possible. He takes this to be equivalent to the question, "How can one content claim to be true of Reality on the strength of another content distinct from the first?" (Vol. 2, pp. 1-2) To answer this question Bosanquet needs to explain how inferences can be justified even though their conclusions contain information not contained in their premises. I take Bosanquet to have two answers to the question. The first, which is found in his Logic, depends on his view that reality consists of concrete universals. The second, which is found in his Implication and Linear Inference, depends on his claim that inference is implication. In this paper I will try to explain both answers.

Difficult Beauty and Real Ugliness in B. Bosanquet

Marie-Luise Raters
Institut für Philosophie
Humboldt-Univertsität zu Berlin
Lehrstuhl Prof. Dr. R. P. Horstmann
Unter den Linden 6
D-10099 Berlin
tel. p. +49 30 692 12 82

The German Hegelians, especially Karl Rosenkranz, defined ugliness in art schematically as absolute negation of beauty; through the ugly in art, beauty can be negatively recognized. Bernard Bosanquet proposed in his History of Aesthetics that ugliness in art be defined as negation but as "positive negation of a typical content, as distortion and as violation in the habitual concrete contexts" (355ff.). In his Three Lectures on Aesthetics, he distinguishes easy beauty and difficult beauty; the latter should not be confused with ugliness in art. The thesis of this paper is that there is an extensive potential for an alternative but nevertheless Hegelian theory of the ugly in art to be found in Bosanquet's conception of difficult beauty.

Bosanquet, Temple And Collingwood: The Inseparability Of Symbol And Meaning In Aesthetic Experience.

Silvio Morigi
Universita’ di Siena
Facolta’ di Lettere E Filosofia
Dipartimento di Studi Storico-Sociali e Filosofici,
Via S. Fabiano No 9, 52100 Arezzo, Italy
(Home Address: Via Sarti No. 26, 48018 Faenza (Ra), Italy)

In my contribution I propose to compare Bosanquet’s aesthetics and Collingwood’s early aesthetics (which finds expression in the 1920s writings, above all in Speculum Mentis (1924) and in Outlines of a Philosophy of Art (1925)); a comparison directed, in particular, at the relationship between symbol and meaning in aesthetic experience.

Both men concur in recognizing, in the work of art, an inseparability of meaning from symbol. But this element of convergence is immediately offset by a clear divergence. For Bosanquet, in fact, this inseparability is an index of the excellence of art, of an epistemic force superior to other forms of human rationality. For Collingwood, rather, this inseparability reflects one of his limits, its lack of "self-consistency" (1) which leads its being dialectically surpassed: "its very being," writes Collingwood, "is in its self-trascendence" (2). This is due to the fact that aesthetic experience, according to Collingwood, involves a major uprooting from things real; even if he recognizes that it is only in this dimension of uprootedness that reality can come into being in the first place. He writes, in fact, that if art is the "night" of the life of the spirit, it is also its "foundation", "soil", "womb" because "all experience issues forth from it and rests upon it": "imagination is the focus, the luminous centre, of all thought" (3)

Both Collingwood and Bosanquet reconsider Plato’s alleged attack on art, in the tenth book of The Republic. They agree, fundamentally, that for Plato the artistic "phantasm" remains "a symbol of the real", beauty "a symbol of spiritual things" (4). But Collingwood denies that an "emotional truth, truth in the guise of beauty" is truth proper, and aligns himself with Plato in regarding "the rule of emotion" as "the vanishing point of reason" (5). For Bosanquet, by contrast, authentic emotional feeling "retains the full sanity and clearness of intelligence" (6). For him the "aesthetic semblance" of a thing, which is disclosed by virtue of an emotional and imaginative experience, corresponds to its "higher reality" (7) in such a way that love of beauty "is not a primitive gift, but, perhaps man’s most typical self-conquest on the path of civilisation" (8). "Of all silly superficialities," Bosanquet was wont to say, "the opposition of feeling and logic is the silliest".

In my contribution I shall also deal with a central notion in the aesthetics of William Temple, the notion of the work of art as "essential symbol" (9), as distinct from the inessential, arbitrary symbols typical of other forms of rationality and shall highlight Temple’s intimate dependence, in this regard, on Bosanquet’s aesthetics.

In conclusion that principal thematic nuclei that will be analysed in my contribution are those of Bosanquet’s "penetrative imagination", "essential symbol" in Temple and "picture-thinking" in Collingwood.

Emotion and Concrete Universality in Bosanquet's Aesthetic

Gabriel Apata
Birbeck College, London
125 Ebdon Way
London SE3 9PJ

My approach is threefold. First, an examination of Bosanquet's theory of emotion/expression in art. Second, a critical expositioon of the idea of a work of art as concrete universal, i.e., as the basis for individuality and value. Third, to show the important role that aesthetics plays in Bosanquet's idealism - in what he calls the 'peculiar force of aesthetic reflection as an exponent of ideal reality.'

Bosanquet and Religion

T. L. S. Sprigge
Philosophy, University of Edinburgh
31A Raeburn Place
Edinburgh EH4 1HO

In the 1880's Bosanquet gave three popular talks on what is living and what dead in Christianity, in particular in the New Testament. The chief theme is that all Jesus's and Paul's talk of another life or another world, insofar as it is of permanent value, and not mixed up with outmoded superstition, refers to a form of life which, in principle, can be lived anywhere and anywhen. Thus the "kingdom of God" means, primarily, "a morally regenerated life on earth". It is doubtful, however, whether today (1890) such a form of life need be associated with a denominational church.

Indeed, there is a real problem as to what should happen to churches, in the sense of buildings. Should they remain the property of an "exasperated" declining sect or should they become cultural symbols of the best we know, quite free of all association with the "supernatural"?And should "sunday" continue as a special day?

At that point Bosanquet could still identify with a demythologised form of Christianity, though even then he thought it should be enriched by more Athenian ideals of dedication to the social whole. In his later more metaphysical writings, especially his Gifford lectures at Edinburgh (published 1912-13), Bosanquet develops his absolute idealism and its practical implications without any attempt to dress it in Christian clothes, but in throwing out what may or may not be the bathwater of eschatological Christianity he seems at risk of throwing out the baby of Christian compassion. However, his metaphysics and ethics remain highly relevant, especially as an attempt to synthesise naturalism and idealism, and as remarkably prescient on machine intelligence.


The Philosophy of Sociology and the Sociology of Philosophy

Andrew Vincent
Professor of Political Theory
School of European Studies
University of Wales, Cardiff
PO Box 908
Cardiff CF1 3YQ UK
Phone: 01222-874257
Fax: 01222-874946
E-mail: <>

The primary focus of this essay will be on the nascent discipline of sociology, as perceived through the writings of Bernard Bosanquet. The discussion will initially examine the general contours of sociology at the turn of the century and Bosanquet's general involvement. The discussion will then turn to Auguste Comte and the perception of positivist science within sociology. Three substantive areas will then be examined - biology, political economy and psychology - which, in Bosanquet's view, affected in fundamental ways the whole debate about sociology. Each of these will be discussed in the context of Bosanquet's critical reflections. Finally, the discussion will focus on a comparison between Émile Durkheim's and Bosanquet's understanding of sociology. Bosanquet regarded Durkheim as one of the most original and sympathetic of all sociological thinkers at the time. There are a number of significant areas of agreement, as well as major differences, between the two thinkers. This comparison reveals significant dimensions, not only of Bosanquet general theory of society, but also of the general parameters of the debate about sociology at the beginning of this century.


'The restoration of the citizen mind': Bosanquet and the Charity Organisation Society

Sandra den Otter
Department of History
Watson Hall Rm. 212
Queen’s University,
Kingston, Ontario,
Canada, K7L 3N6
E-mail: <>

Bernard Bosanquet was widely perceived as the resident philosopher of the Charity Organisation Society (COS), the pre-eminent philanthropic agency of late nineteenth century Britain. Bernard and Helen Bosanquet helped to lead the COS through almost twenty-five years of often turbulent discussion about poverty, philanthropy and state intervention. Both regarded the COS as an opportunity to apply T. H. Green's ideas to current problems. Positioning the Bosanquets within late Victorian debate about the dilemmas of poverty helps to clarify aspects of Bernard Bosanquet's position as outlined in The Philosophical Theory of the State, notably his understanding of the individual and the state and the regenerative powers of community.

British Idealism in an Age of Cultural Diversity.

Colin Tyler
Bentham Project
Centre for Politics, Law and Society
University College London
Bentham House
Endsleigh Gardens
London WC1H 0EG
United Kingdom
E-mail: <>
Direct Line: 4 (0) 171 391 1510
Fax: 44 (0) 171 916 8510

British Idealism is frequently seen as sanctioning, and indeed often requiring, the social and political suppression of cultural difference. The present paper argues that far from being antithetical to culturally diverse politics, British Idealism contains powerful resources for the construction of a system of culturally-sensitive constitutional rights. Section one outlines the relevant critique of British Idealism, and summarizes the related critiques of modern constitutionalism which are developed in James Tully's book Strange Multiplicity and Bhikhu Parekh's article "Superior People". Section two begins the development of a British Idealist theory of cultural pluralism by outlining Bernard Bosanquet's pluralistic conception of "Institutions as Ethical Ideas". This analysis is extended in section three by integrating into it T H Green's theory of rights. Throughout these last two sections, particular emphases are placed upon retrieving two factors whose vital importance have been either wrongly and yet explicitly denied or insufficiently appreciated in the critical literature on British Idealism: (i) the great ethical benefits of a high degree of social heterogeneity from a British Idealist perspective, and (ii) the importance of social recognition in British Idealist ethical and political thought. The paper concludes by establishing that the resulting constitutional theory avoids the problems raised by Tully and Parekh, and forms a valuable prescriptive model for political practice in an age of cultural diversity such as our own.


Bosanquet and State Action

Peter Nicholson
c/o Department of Politics,
University of York,
Derwent College
Heslington, York YO1 5DD

The paper examines the principles on which Bosanquet justifies state action and by which he sets the limit to it. Some of his concrete political examples are discussed. Three principal concerns are pursued: first, is his position internally consistent? Second, is this one of the points where Bosanquet follows Green very closely, or one where he "expresses himself independently"? Third, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Bosanquet's position, as a philosophical account of the proper province of government?

Community, Class and Bosanquet's New State

John Morrow
School of Political Science and International Relations,
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington 6001

Discussions of Bosanquet's political and social theory often focus on its relationship to models of 'liberal' and/or 'conservative' thinking. While 'these treatments have made important contributions to our understanding of 'Bosanquet's works, they have tended to distract attention from visionary 'aspects of his conception of the modern state. They also fail to give due 'weight to Bosanquet's close and often positive engagement with strongly progressive currents in late Victorian and Edwardian political and social culture. This paper seeks to help to redress the balance of Bosanquet 'scholarship by stressing radical features of what might properly be called Bosanquet's 'new state'. This theme is explored in a consideration of 'aspects of Bosanquet's theory of community and in an analysis of his views 'on class in the modern state with special reference to problems arising from the organisation of production.


The Theory of True Individuality in the Philosophy of Bernard Bosanquet

Stamatoula I. Panagakou
Department of Politics
Derwent College
University of York
Heslington, York YOIO 5DD

Bernard Bosanquet challenged with his theory of human being the assumptions of the atomistic individualism of the nineteenth century. The paper focuses on his major work in metaphysics (the two-volume Gifford Lectures, The Principle of Individuality and Value and The Value and Destiny of the Individual ) and offers an analysis and a critical examination of his moral and social ontology based on a close textual interpretation. The purpose of the paper is to show that Bosanquet propounded a completer theory of human being which recognises that the distinct essence of humanity is realised in the framework of a dialectical relational process that accepts the cardinal importance of the "other" for the discovery of truth inside the individual’s soul. The analysis is based on a set of normative principles drawn from the Gifford Lectures. These doctrines, which substantiate his philosophical project, structure his theory of Individuality. I have identified them as: (i) the dialectic of the finite-infinite; and (ii) the concept of self-transcendence.

The paper has three main foci:
i. The implications of Bosanquet’s metaphysics for his social and political philosophy.
ii. The influence by Greek philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).
iii. The challenge of some of his conclusions by the Personal Idealists.

A New Leviathan amongst the Idealists: Collingwood's response to the British Idealists

Head of Political Studies
Social Science Faculty
Southampton Institute
East Park Terrace
SO14 0YN.
Telephone: 01703 319030

This paper examines the political philosophy of R.G.Collingwood through an examination of his relation to Green, Bradley and Bosanquet. It shows how, in both published and unpublished work, Collingwood drew on some of their work but at the same time was both sharply critical and to some extent revisionary. The paper concentrates on the role of the state in relation to the promotion of morality and the good life.

The Balance of Extremes: Metaphysics, Science, and Morals in the Later Philosophy of Bernard Bosanquet

Leslie Armour,
Dominican College of Philosophy & Theology,
96 Empress St.,
Ottawa, ON, K1R 7G3,

Bosanquet's Meeting of Extremes in Contemporary Philosophy is an attempt to show that two main lines of philosophy end in disaster. One group are the'neo-idealists' (a wide category which includes Gentile and Croce but also those philosophers like J. A. Smith who were moved by them) . The other group are 'realists' ('the six' and 'the seven' in America, Moore and Russell, and Samuel Alexander). Both groups end in unintelligibility. But Bosanquet's book is also an attempt to map a middle ground on which philosophers can meet if they follow certain lines of argument.

Alexander worries Bosanquet most, for Alexander has a metaphysic which seems to be a rival to his own. The logic of Bosanquet's case is this: The Absolute as pure undifferentiated unity, more real than the world in which we find ourselves, ends in empty nonsense. But so does the Crocean compromise with it. And the realists fragment the world in a way which ends in unintelligibility, too. The middle ground is the idea of a 'universal character' of mind which is shared with all things but which is not an Absolute in the sense of something added to the world but in the sense of something which is the logical foundation for and pervasive unity of the world. Such an Absolute is not in time, time is in it, and Bosanquet is concerned to argue with Alexander and the Croceans about whether 'the universe is essentially a history.' Bosanquet argues that we cannot use science to sustain this thesis.

Smith admitted in a letter that 'Bosanquet has shaken me" and "I have alarmed Joseph". The most threatening issues for Bosanquet, though, are about how to individuate minds -- a problem which threatens to sever his moral theory from his metaphysics -- and about the ultimate ontological status of his Absolute. I argue that there are answers to these questions, but to accept them Bosanquet must make some changes. Smith's unpublished work proves important for our grasp of the arguments, and some of his ideas are useful. The 'middle ground' that Bosanquet wants can be defended.
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