[From Times, Saturday, February 10, 1923, page 9]

A Great English Philosopher

Death of Mr. Bosanquet

          We regret to announce that Mr. Bernard Bosanquet, one of the most representative English philosophers of his time, died at Golders Green on Thursday, aged 74.  The funeral will be at Golders Green Crematorium on Monday at 3 o’clock.  A memoir appears on page 11.

[p. 11]

Reality as the Absolute


Bernard Bosanquet’s Philosophy


Mr. Bernard Bosanquet, whose death is announced on another page, may be said to have been the central figure in English philosophy during the last decade of the last century and the first of the new.  He was in a sense the most representative English philosopher of his time.  When it was proposed to hold the International Congress of Philosophy in 1915 (impossible when the time came by reason of the war) he was appointed acting-president.

          In philosophy itself he stands out as the type of the courtly scholar, chivalrous in his bearing, tolerant of criticism, sympathetic in controversy, and at the same time firm and unyielding as a rock in the defence of his philosophical position.  He stood for a definite principle, yet one for which he did not claim the honour of discovery.  He learnt it from Mr. F. H. Bradley, his Oxford colleague, and though he spent his life in systematizing it, he always insisted on associating it with Mr. Bradley’s name.

          The doctrine is that reality is a system, and that the metaphysical basis of anything that exists, as a particular or as an individual, is to be sought in its relation to a whole, this whole being conceived as an experience which transcends individual experience.  In logic it meant that the ultimate subject in every judgment, whether in outward form the judgment be categorical, hypothetical, or disjunctive, is reality as a whole, the Absolute.  The force of the logical inference rests on this, and every proposition implies as its condition an affirmation about reality in the form, “Reality is such that…”  Whatever falls short of the whole, he was fond of saying, reveals its partiality and incompleteness by its torn edges.  He came to be regarded, therefore, as the representative of orthodox intellectualism – orthodox because it was of pure Hegelian descent; intellectualism because it allowed no rival to reason such as will, no opposite to logic such as intuition.  He called himself and Bradley Hegelians of the Left, to distinguish them from the other Oxford school represented by Green, Caird, and Wallace.

          Bosanquet descended from the ancient Huguenot family of Bosanquet of Dingestow, and was the youngest son of the Rev. R. W. Bosanquet, of Rock Hall, Northumberland, the brother of Admiral Sir Day H. Bosanquet, and uncle of Professor R. Carr Bosanquet, of Liverpool University.  He was born in 1848, and educated at Harrow, going up to Balliol College, Oxford, as a scholar, when Jowett’s influence was at its height.  After taking firsts in Moderations and Lit Hum, he was for ten years Fellow and Tutor of University College.  In 1881, he came to live in London and devoted himself assiduously to the work of the Charity Organization Society.

          About this time the University Extension movement began. Bosanquet took an active interest in it from the first and discovered by it that he possessed an extraordinary power of interesting popular audiences in subjects which had hitherto been confined to college classrooms.  Some of his best work – “Essentials of Logic,” “Psychology of the Moral Self,” “Companion to Plato’s Republic for English Readers,” – was University Extension courses delivered at Essex Hall.  He was also associated with the short lived Ethical Society movement.


The Aristotelian Society


          In 1885, he became a member of the Aristotelian Society, and took a leading part in its discussion.  He always spoke of this society as having been one of the valuable influences in his life, for it brought him into close personal relations with other philosophers whose methods and teaching were divergent from his own.  In those days, the meetings were small, but they were very serious discussions, and generally followed by an adjournment to the President, Shadworth Hodgson’s, rooms in Conduit-street.  When Shadworth Hodgson retired from the presidency in 1894, Bosanquet was elected to succeed him.  In 1903 he was appointed to the chair of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, which he held for five years, and then returned to live at his country house at Oxshott.

          Bosanquet’s philosophical writings were numerous and belong to every period of his life.  The most important are his early work “Logic or Morphology of Knowledge,” and his mature work, the two courses of Gillford Lectures, “The Value and Destiny of the Individual” and “The Principle of Individuality and value.” In the “Logic” he adopted the principle which Mr. Bradley had championed against Mill and the Associationists, but he applied it in a systematic and complete manner to the science of logic in its whole range.  The Gifford Lectures were the attempt to present his philosophy in a complete form.  The essential doctrine was that reality is the absolute, and that the individual, therefore, can possess no more than what he termed an “adjectival,” as distinct from a substantive, mode of being.  “The universe,” he said, “is not a place of pleasure, nor even compounded of probation and justice; it is from the highest point of view concerned with finite beings, a place of soul-making.”


“Adjectival” Theory


            The “adjectival” theory proved a veritable crux philosophorum.  The last occasion on which Bosanquet appeared in public was at a discussion of the Aristotelian Society in the summer of 1918.  In a symposium he vigorously defended his theory against the attacks of Professor Pringle Pattison, Lord Haldane, and Professor Stout.  When his health obliged him to give up meetings and public discussions he still continued to follow with intense interest every development of philosophical theory; in particular he devoted special attention to the neo-idealist movement in Italy.  His book on “Contemporary Philosophy,” in 1921, is largely devoted to an examination of the work of Croce and Gentile, and a comparison of their doctrines with the neo-realism of the English and American philosophers.

          In 1895 Bosanquet married Helen Dendy.  Before her marriage Miss Dendy had already done valuable work in philosophy, and in particular, had translated Sigwart’s “Logic.”  Bosanquet was an original Fellow of the British Academy.  He was honorary LL.D. of Glasgow and D.C.L. of Durham.