British Idealism 

Specialist Group 

Stamatoula Panagakou [York], Co-Chair, reports:

The centenary of Bernard Bosanquet’s The Philosophical Theory of the State (1899) was celebrated with the Conference Bosanquet and the Legacy of British Idealism, at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, 1-2 September 1999. The Conference was organised by Bill Mander, William Sweet and Colin Tyler and was attended by over 60 delegates. The keynote papers were: ‘Metaphysics, Science, and Morals in the Later Philosophy of Bernard Bosanquet’ by Leslie Armour; ‘Community, Class and Bosanquet’s New State; by John Morrow; ‘Bosanquet and Religion’ by Timothy Sprigge’; ‘Bosanquet: the Philosophy of Sociology and the Sociology of Philosophy’ by Andrew Vincent; and ‘Bosanquet on the Ontology of Logic and the Method of Scientific Inquiry’ by Fred Wilson. The other papergivers were: J. Allard, M. Allentuck, G. Apata, J. Connelly, P. Ferreira, P. MacEwen, S. Morigi, P. Nicholson, S. Otter, S. Panagakou, M. L. Raters, B. Trott and C. Tyler.

Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923) made important contributions to the entire spectrum of philosophical inquiry and he was particularly concerned with the philosophical foundations of politics and the theorisation of the relations between the State and the Individual. He wrote on ethics, social and political philosophy, logic, metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion. His obituary in The Times described him as “the central figure of British philosophy for an entire generation”. The importance and influence of his writings are reflected in the recent revival of interest in the philosophy of British Idealism.

William Sweet [St. Francis Xavier] assessed Bosanquet’s contribution to political philosophy as:

“Bosanquet’s contribution would have been significant even if all we had from him was The Philosophical Theory of the State. The fact that Hobhouse’s The Metaphysical Theory of the State is devoted to an extensive, though I think often unjust, critique of Bosanquet’s views, shows that his influence was considerable, and it is interesting that contemporary authors, like Jerry Gaus, still draw on Bosanquet’s work. But we also know that Bosanquet’s social philosophy had an important place in late 19th/early 20th century British social and public policy, and in my next book, British Idealism in India and South Africa, I hope to show that his ideas had an important role in the Empire as well”
A panel on ‘The Philosophy of British Idealists’ was also organised at the 2nd Annual Conference of the Society for European Philosophy at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge, 8-10 September 1999. In ‘Art, Machine and the Masses: Some Themes in Collingwood, Adorno, and Benjamin’ James Connelly [Southampton Institute] explored the contrasting attitudes taken by Adorno, Collingwood and Benjamin towards mass and mechanised art. Maria Dimova-Cookson [University College, London] in ‘T. H. Green’s Phenomenological Moral Theory’ argued that T. H. Green defines moral practice in a phenomenological way by focusing on the intentions of the moral agent and that this dimension makes his theory superior to both the utilitarian and the Kantian one. In ‘The Political Philosophy of B. Bosanquet: Metaphysics, the State and the Individual’ Stamatoula Panagakou assessed the meaning of Bosanquet’s political philosophy in the context of a hermeneutical framework derived from his metaphysics.