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The Collected Works of D.G. Ritchie

6 Volumes


D. G. Ritchie was a philosophical author of note in his day, particularly in political philosophy, and his arguments are still worth reading for themselves as well as being of considerable historical interest. In his relatively short life, he produced a substantial body of philosophical writing which is sharp, intelligent, acutely argued, accessible, and expressed in language which is always clear and often witty. In this Introduction to the reprint of his books, I shall first outline his life and career. Then I shall explain how one’s understanding of his leading ideas can be enhanced by consulting some of his previously uncollected writings, which have been included in an additional volume (volume 6). I shall also mention why some other items have not been included. Finally I shall discuss Ritchie’s Liberalism and his involvement with the Fabians, to illustrate the problem of locating him on the spectrum of political ideologies, and to try to show why his approach dictates that there must be that problem.

Throughout, as occasion arises, I have sought to supplement Robert Latta’s excellent ‘Memoir’ of Ritchie, which prefaces Philosophical Studies, with further information and with references to later studies. Latta was able to write with authority, having been Ritchie’s Assistant for the first four years of his professorship at St Andrews.1


David George Ritchie was born on 26 October 1853, into a family with strong academic connections. In 1869, at the not unusual age of sixteen, he entered Edinburgh University, where he was taught by distinguished professors: W. Y. Sellar (Latin), J. S. Blackie (Greek), Phillip Kelland (mathematics), A. Campbell Fraser (logic), P. G. Tait (natural philosophy), Henry Calderwood (moral philosophy) and David Masson (English literature). After a brilliant career in which he won prizes every year, Ritchie gained first class honours in Classics in 1874 and the following year was awarded the newly established Scottish Universities Classical Scholarship. Treading a common route, he proceeded to Oxford and in the autumn of 1874 entered Balliol, academically the leading college and home to many Scotsmen, as an exhibitioner. His tutors included T. H. Green and the Master, Benjamin Jowett; and he heard lectures by Green, William Wallace, John Cook Wilson, Thomas Case, R. L. Nettleship, and A. C. Bradley. Among his fellow undergraduates were many who became eminent in academic and public life: Samuel Alexander, James Bonar, C. H. Firth, John Viriamu Jones, Richard Lodge, John MacCunn, Alfred Milner, F. C. Montague, J. H. Muirhead, T. F. Tout, Arnold Toynbee, and C. E. Vaughan.2 In the Final School of Literae Humaniores in 1878 Ritchie was placed in the first class (along with, among others, Oscar Wilde of Magdalen College). He began to read for the Bar, but stopped when later that year he won a fellowship at Jesus; he was appointed tutor in 1881 and Librarian from 1881–6.3 He also was Classical Lecturer at Balliol from 1882–6, and lecturer for one year at Trinity College. In 1882 Ritchie married Flora Lindsay Macdonell; she died on 24 July 1888 after a long and painful illness. He dedicated his first book, Darwinism and Politics, to her. On 25 July 1889 he married Ellen Haycraft, telling Samuel Alexander that his prospects for the future had been brightened in a way he could hardly have hoped for after the sorrow of the previous year, which had led him almost to despair of being able to stay on at Oxford at all.4

Ritchie spent two formative decades in Oxford, and when eventually he went to a chair at St Andrews he was regarded as an Oxford man rather than as a returning Scot. ‘You readily recognize in him all the best qualities of Oxford: its intellectual generosity, its strenuously disinterested helpfulness, its warm but restrained enthusiasm for the best in life and literature, and above all, its inexhaustible patience and delight in the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake.’5 As this later encomium suggests, as a fellow in Oxford Ritchie was a popular and effective lecturer and tutor. He made his mark with memorable lectures on political philosophy, while as a tutor ‘he was, perhaps, most appreciated for his informal conversational teaching’.6 His lectures, according to a colleague at Jesus, ‘are widely attended by undergraduates of other Colleges as well as our own, which shows that he is a successful and stimulating lecturer. He has a great gift of adding interest to any subject that he talks about…. Besides, he takes the kindliest possible interest in his students and never spares himself trouble in attending to their requirements.’7 One student reported: ‘…praise from Mr Ritchie is the real thing we aim at. I can’t tell you how clever he is, how learned, how original, how suggestive. I know you say you can’t imagine anyone reading philosophy, but if only you could come to one week of his lectures I think you would go away wild about political philosophy.’8 Among his pupils at Balliol were John Burnet, Cosmo Gordon Lang, and F. C. S. Schiller.9 In addition to his college teaching, Ritchie also gave more popular lectures, at Toynbee Hall and Essex Hall in London (in connection with the Ethical Society) and elsewhere, including two for the Fabian Society; several of these he published.10 In August 1894 he gave a short series of lectures on philosophy for the Summer Oxford University Extension meeting.11

Whilst at Oxford, despite the demands on his time made by his teaching, Ritchie managed to publish many papers, two short books, and a collection of his essays. He also completed the manuscript of his main work, the book on natural rights. The first two books, Darwinism and Politics (1889) and The Principles of State Interference (1891), firmly established him as a lively, enlightening and progressive writer on political philosophy and contemporary politics. The two books had a large audience. In both cases there was soon a second, enlarged edition, and both were reprinted twice before his death. Darwinism and Politics has been described as ‘frequently cited’ in the period, and The Principles of State Interference as ‘one of the most widely read political tracts in the English-speaking world’.12 Darwinism and Politics received the back-handed compliment of being pirated in the United States.13 In these books Ritchie discussed the underlying theories involved in two of the major controversies of the day: how far biological conceptions about evolution and natural selection could be applied to social matters, and how far the government ought to interfere in the lives of individuals. In both books, his principal adversary was Herbert Spencer, and his prime target was political individualism.14 His main conclusion was that ‘the theory of Evolution rightly understood gives no sanction to an a priori dogma of laissez faire.’15 In the course of developing his critiques, Ritchie set out his leading ideas on idealism and on how they could be used to revise utilitarian and evolutionary ideas, and considered their application to practical politics. The philosophical foundations of his positive ideas were discussed in more depth in other papers, particularly those he collected in Darwin and Hegel (1893), and in Natural Rights, written at this time and published soon after. The latter is his most sustained work, an Idealist rejection of the philosophical assumptions of natural rights theories, and further Idealist reformulations of utilitarianism. The book characteristically blends the philosophically aware use of history with conceptual analysis and criticism. Ritchie is always sharp in argument and merciless in pointing out any slip his opponent may make. He also takes up any empirical or historical generalization, and tests it with apparent exceptions or counter-examples. This union of philosophical reasoning with empirical examination is crucial to his whole approach to politics. ‘The true method of political science’, he once wrote, ‘would seem to require always a combination of facts and logic, – the method of Aristotle, of Vico, of Montesquieu, of Hegel…. And it is this method which we feel certain will in the long run be preferred, in all the political sciences, to the abstract deductive method of Bentham and Austin.’16 In Ritchie we witness the emergence of a style of discussion which is recognizably modern. He is one of those who formed the present academic discipline of political theory.

Probably one objective in putting Darwin and Hegel together, and getting Natural Rights ready for publication, was to promote his claim to a chair. Ritchie wanted to move to Scotland partly because of the temptation of a shorter teaching session – from late October to early May, allowing six months for literary work – and partly because he had always found Oxford’s climate unhealthy.17 Obtaining a chair in Scotland, however, was not a simple business.18 Ritchie followed the advice given him by Andrew Fairbairn, which he thought queer but found sound, that ‘if you think at all of standing for any Scotch philosophical professorship, you should stand for every one vacant – so as to become known to the Electors. …If a man is not working in Scotland – he has to make himself known gradually as a possible candidate.’19 Accordingly in 1892 Ritchie was a candidate for the Chair of Logic at Aberdeen, which went to Robert Adamson, and in 1894 for the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow (vacant through Edward Caird’s departure for the mastership at Balliol, in succession to Jowett), which went to Henry Jones. Later in 1894 he was the successful candidate for the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at St Andrews, vacant on Jones’s move to the Edinburgh Chair. Candidature was taxing; the candidate had to collect and circulate testimonials in his favour and was expected to present himself in person to each elector, of whom there were more than a dozen at St Andrews.20

At St Andrews, Ritchie’s qualities as a lecturer were applauded from the first, a considerable achievement for the successor to the charismatic and eloquent Jones. A Scottish professor’s main function was to deliver a large number of lectures, and Ritchie introduced informal discussions as well. In his class discussions, his versatility and command of a very wide range of subjects impressed his students. ‘You may shake almost any branch in the garden of knowledge’, wrote one, ‘and you will find that he has tasted the fruit before you, and knows the quality of it well.’21 Ritchie’s students were gratified by his concrete approach to even the most abstruse subjects; through the use of apt and amusing illustrations, ‘the most complex problems of logic were placed in a light so clear that the dullest might comprehend’.22 The obituary in College Echoes concluded: ‘No man was ever more reverenced by his students. He seemed to them the embodiment of what knowledge and the earnest striving after truth may do for a man.’23

As a professor, Ritchie was on the Senate. He was a member of the committee managing the Ladies Literate in Arts scheme (whereby women entered for examinations at centres all over Scotland for a qualification equal in standard to the undergraduate degree), and raising money for a hall of residence for women students at St Andrews (women had been admitted to read for degrees in 1892).24 He was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts for 1898; and in 1902 was elected one of the Senate’s members on the University Court.

Ritchie had wished to work mainly at political philosophy, and regretted that there were no chairs in the subject.25 As Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, he had to study these subjects for his lectures, and began to publish on them. He also wrote a full length examination of the philosophy of Plato, Plato (1902), marked by philological expertise as well as balanced comparisons of Plato’s philosophical ideas with Aristotle’s (the book was originally intended to cover both Plato and Aristotle, the Preface tells us). At the same time he continued to study political philosophy, and publish on it, collecting some of his articles, together with some earlier material in Studies in Political and Social Ethics (1902). However, he seems to have been able to give less time to political philosophy than he would have liked. In a letter to James Bryce he mentions plans to rewrite parts of Natural Rights, especially the second chapter, or ‘to put together something separately on the Jus Naturale’. He also mentions having just read Maitland’s translation of Gierke, describing it as seeming ‘a very mine of interesting material’, but concludes: ‘I get little time for any work on Political Philosophy here, as I find that I need most of my time and energy for Metaphysics and Psychology (in which last the Americans are terribly voluminous).’26

There were various upheavals in the University in his early years there, but in general he seems to have been happy at St Andrews. In 1897 he wrote to Hastings Rashdall: ‘Except for influenza (which I had worse in Oxford) and Bute (who is a unique plague) I am very fond of St Andrews – and have much encouragement in my work.’27 John Stuart, Third Marquis of Bute, owner of the Bute docks at Cardiff, Scottish antiquarian, philanthropist, and sensational convert to Roman Catholicism in 1868, was elected by the students as Rector of St Andrews 1892–5 and again 1895–8. As Ritchie had recounted to Rashdall earlier: ‘We are at present suffering grave and constant troubles at the hands of that fantastic person the Marquis of Bute, who arrays himself in a robe that resembles those of your Bologna doctors especially in its innumerable buttons, and who like the Bologna Rectors exists to worry the Professors. Recent legislation has given the Rector a power over the finances of the University which his predecessors never had: and Lord Bute with his passion for litigation [in the dispute with Dundee over the incorporation of its college into the University] and design of introducing a Roman Catholic College into St Andrews is steering us on to the rocks.’ There were feuds, Ritchie reported, ‘which are fought with a bitterness that is medieval and that, before coming here, I should have thought incredible’.28 However, the Dundee problem was resolved in 1897, and Lord Bute’s term of office as Rector expired the following year.29 Unfortunately, Ritchie’s life ended unexpectedly a few years later. He died suddenly, probably due, his son later surmised, ‘to a (so-called) benign tumour in the spinal cord’.30 He was only forty-nine and, as his friend J. H. Muirhead put it, he ‘died so early and so full of promise’.31


Next, I shall lay out the principles governing my selection of material for volume 6, which collects writings additional to those Ritchie himself reprinted and to those Latta reprinted. When Robert Latta compiled a posthumous collection of Ritchie’s writings, Philosophical Studies, his objectives presumably were to confirm Ritchie’s reputation as a philosopher, and to provide a sample of the kind of work he had been engaged in at St Andrews. Noting that Ritchie had himself recently reissued in Studies in Political and Social Ethics essays on practical questions, Latta explained that his own selection contained ‘papers which are essentially philosophical’ and that his aim was to ‘represent, as adequately as is now possible, the philosophical position that underlies his practical doctrine’.32 Latta printed three philosophical articles from 1894–7 and published extensively from manuscript material on which Ritchie had been working.33 The latter contain many interesting comments, particularly on metaphysics and moral philosophy, which throw some light on his previous writings.

In selecting what to include in an additional volume for this reprint of Ritchie’s works, I have used some different criteria from Latta’s. Looking back on Ritchie’s work after nearly a century gives one another perspective. It has become generally agreed that Ritchie’s main contribution, and what gives him a lasting claim to attention, is his political philosophy and, linked with this, his position in relation to T. H. Green. Harris put it well: ‘The significance of Ritchie does not lie in his restatement of the idealist position, but rather in the use he made of philosophy as a critical instrument in political thought.’34 To begin with Ritchie’s relation to Green, he was deeply and permanently influenced by Green at Oxford. Ritchie wrote later that Green ‘always encouraged me in my philosophical studies’, and was ‘the philosophical teacher from whom I have learnt most’.35 As a result Ritchie is in my judgement one of the best exponents and defenders of Green’s ideas, and for this reason I have selected a number of pieces in which Ritchie elaborates Green’s ideas or critically examines the accounts of them given by others. Several of these pieces are book reviews (for example the review of Seth, 1888): Ritchie was a regular and frequent contributor of reviews, which are often substantial both in their account of the author’s position and in their critical and probing examination of it, and they are always clearly, elegantly phrased.

There are of course respects in which Ritchie is dissimilar to Green. As Metz pointed out, Ritchie went back to Hegel himself more regularly than Green had.36 From the very beginning, as can be seen from his first publication, ‘The Rationality of History’, Ritchie takes some basic principles and assumptions from Hegel, for example that there is a rational pattern in human history, and that the state can be understood as a moralizing institution, though he makes them his own and works them out and uses them for his own purposes.37 In Ritchie, Hegel’s writings are the stimulus to the development of new work, set in its own framework: they are not dead dogma but alive and growing, and they are not repeated in their own technical language. Ritchie was never infected by Hegelian jargon, nor overwhelmed by the dialectical method. It is also important to note that Ritchie interprets Hegelianism as a liberal and progressive political philosophy. He emphasizes the Hegel for whom the ultimate goal of human development is freedom for all, and argues that the true lesson of Hegelianism is that history has not yet ended.38 This is a view of Hegel which, after the decline of Idealism in the 1920s, was not properly recovered in the English-speaking academy until the 1970s. To show more of Ritchie’s sympathetic view of Hegel, I have reprinted several of his minor pieces in volume 6, again including some reviews. Their titles usually make it obvious which they are, but I should mention that ‘Philosophy and the Study of Philosophers’ (1899) takes a very Hegelian view of the philosophical importance of the history of philosophy.

Another respect in which Ritchie differs from Green, is that Ritchie made a special study of contemporary biological ideas of evolution and of their application to morals and politics. He decided that, although these ideas were often used improperly, there was also a true sense in which one might speak of ‘social evolution’, operating at the level of ideas. This should not be seen as a departure from Green and idealism; rather, as Harris put it, Ritchie ‘captured’ the idea of evolution for idealism.39 In the striking article ‘Darwin and Hegel’ Ritchie claimed that Darwinian ideas of evolution and Hegelian ideas of the development of reason in the world are compatible, and indeed when rightly understood can be seen to support one another. This, according to Metz, ‘created something of a sensation in philosophical circles’, because Darwinism had been regarded as a natural enemy of Hegelians.40 And Darwinism taken in a literal way was, no doubt, antagonistic to the religious views of those who had turned to Hegel as the saviour of their Christianity. However, philosophically Ritchie’s point is fundamentally sound. Nor was he in conflict with anything Green had said. Green had denied that there can be a natural science of man, in the sense that science could not possibly explain human thought and action.41 Ritchie’s strategy, however, was to use Hegel to turn Darwinism into a philosophical theory, ‘Idealist evolutionism’, and show how it could help explain the course of the very kind of moral progress that Green believed in. Again, I have placed in volume 6 the few further items bearing on this. The most important is probably ‘Evolution and Democracy’ (1900).

Besides the additional items connected in this way to Ritchie’s central themes, I have included a few pieces for their intrinsic interest, such as the reviews of two of Sidgwick’s books (1891/2 and 1898). The resulting volume is a gathering of Ritchie’s published writings, consisting of chapters contributed to books, articles, discussion notes, and critical notices and reviews (some of them long), which I have supplemented with a small selection of his unpublished letters dealing with philosophical points, especially in political philosophy, and with his own political views. There is a powerful case for making this material more accessible, because much of it is becoming scarce. Even in the case of papers and reviews which appeared in the mainstream publications, Mind, the International Journal of Ethics (now Ethics), or the Aristotelian Society Proceedings, few libraries possess runs which stretch so far back. Some of the other items, even those published in books, are rare and, when held by a library, have sometimes been transferred to a special collection in order to conserve them.

On the other hand, I have omitted a considerable number of items, which I should mention so that the reader is aware of what else there is (they are all listed in the comprehensive Bibliography of Ritchie’s writings following this Introduction): a descriptive account of ‘The Teaching of Political Science at Oxford’ (1891–2); some very brief and slight replies and responses in the Aristotelian Society Proceedings and International Journal of Ethics; some fairly standard entries, succinctly providing the information suited to a reference work, in Chambers Encyclopaedia (1888–92) and Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy (1894–9); book reviews which are short or contain little of Ritchie’s own views; and some pieces which are not philosophical but antiquarian or literary. A few of these omissions merit special explanation. The main literary publication is the edition of The Early Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle (1889). Ritchie obtained these through his family. He supplies a Preface and some brief notes. Potentially more interesting are the extracts Ritchie published (1894) from the diary of another relative, the Reverend David Aitken, kept during his visit to Germany in 1826, because among those Aitken sought out was Hegel. There are few accounts of British visitors to Hegel. Unfortunately what Aitken recorded in his diary is, as Ritchie himself admits, disappointing. Introducing the extracts, Ritchie writes:

With regard to the interview with Hegel I confess a certain disappointment. It is less picturesque than the description which Dr Aitken in his old age (it must have been in 1873 or 1874) gave me of his visit to the philosopher. He told me how, as he entered the room, he saw at first only a cloud of smoke; as the smoke cleared away he discerned ‘a jolly German in a dressing gown’ who talked to him about English politics and The Edinburgh Review. Being asked whether it would be possible by attending a lecture or two to get any idea of his philosophy, Hegel answered: ‘In the first Semester you would know nothing about it; in the second Semester you would know nothing about it; in the third Semester you would begin to see something in it, and in the fourth you might begin to make progress.’ But did Hegel smoke? To the Nürnberg schoolboys he spoke of smoking as eine unanständige Unsitte – ‘a bad-mannered bad custom’; yet this and his constant sniffing do not absolutely prove that the Berlin professor did not smoke. But it is possible that, after so many years, Dr Aitken’s memory may have mixed up the picture of Hegel’s outward aspect with that of some other Berlin professor. The deterrent advice about attending a stray lecture is characteristic enough.42

Despite my emphasis on Hegel, I have not included Ritchie’s review of Dyde’s translation of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1897). This was the first translation into English, and it is unfortunate that it had serious inadequacies, leaving out the highly informative comments added by the German editors from students’ notes of Hegel’s lectures, and being poorly translated. Ritchie clearly took great pains over his review, with extensive and detailed comments on the limitations of the translation, but he himself thought it was rather a waste of time writing it.43 There seems no point in reprinting it when Dyde’s translation has been superseded and has disappeared almost without trace. Nor have I included the two long reviews of Newman’s edition of Aristotle (1888 and 1902), which are disappointingly slight. Elsewhere Ritchie wrote splendidly on Aristotle, for example his analysis of Aristotle on particular justice (1894, reprinted in volume 6) is cited in current scholarship. His teaching at Oxford required close study of Aristotle, whose approach to politics, combining exact conceptual probing with informed examination of empirical material, appealed to Ritchie. When Jowett wrote his translation of the Politics he turned to Ritchie for assistance.44 Nonetheless, Ritchie’s reviews of Newman do not come near the standard of his best work on Aristotle.


The question of the political implications of Ritchie’s philosophy, and his place on the political spectrum, have occasioned much discussion. Sometimes an ordered progression is identified, from J. S. Mill, through Green and Ritchie, to the New Liberalism towards the end of the nineteenth century. A version of this is found in Michael Freeden, who contends that Green’s liberalism was of the older variant and that it made little contribution to New Liberalism, so that Ritchie’s contribution to the latter must be seen as taking him considerably beyond Green, particularly through his deployment of the new evolutionary ideas. It is Freeden’s view that ‘it was Ritchie, not Green, who assisted most in formulating a new liberal theory of the state – and this by departing from the English Idealist tradition which, in the case of Bosanquet even more than that of Green, restricted the role of the state’.45 Sometimes doubt is expressed over whether Ritchie should be read as a liberal at all. Morrow argues that ‘if liberalism is thought to have the individual as its focus, then it is very difficult to think of either Bosanquet or Ritchie as liberal thinkers, since both were more concerned with social wholes than with individuals’.46 But in most respects, commentators commonly contrast Ritchie and Bosanquet, who are seen as sharing a heritage from Green but developing it in opposing directions, to the extent that one can distinguish a left Hegelianism in Ritchie, with socialistic tendencies, and a right Hegelianism in Bosanquet, entrenching self-reliance and independence. Obviously this is not the place to attempt to resolve these divergent interpretations and disagreements, which involve complex points about the correct understanding of Green, Bosanquet, and the New Liberalism as well as of Ritchie. But it is possible to discuss the related matter of Ritchie’s political beliefs. Again, no incontrovertible conclusion can be reached – indeed this is an important point to accept – and even if it could, that would not end the disagreement over the interpretation of Ritchie’s political philosophy. Nonetheless, the two matters are connected, and it is well worth looking more closely at Ritchie’s political beliefs.

Ritchie undoubtedly shared Green’s enthusiasm for social and political reform, and always investigated the implications for and applications to practical politics of his findings in political philosophy. But unlike Green he was not active in politics. He belonged to several discussion societies in Oxford, but he was not a committed member of political organizations. He was an ‘advanced’ or progressive Liberal, but the only record I can find of his public involvement in Liberal politics is when the party split over Ireland. That led him to support publicly Gladstone and his policy of Home Rule for Ireland. Ritchie attended lectures and meetings on the issue, he was elected to the Committee of the Home Rule League for Oxford University when it was founded, and he was a signatory to an Address to Gladstone, supporting his Irish policy, from the members of the University.47 His first wife, Flora Ritchie, seems to have been a strong Liberal. She was the prime mover, despite her poor health, behind the establishment of a Women’s Liberal Association at Oxford in 1888, and was its first Secretary.48

Ritchie’s close connections with Liberalism make it all the more intriguing that for four years he was a member of the Fabian Society. However, it is by no means clear what conclusions can be drawn from that episode. Ritchie did not himself join the Society, but was elected to it without his knowledge and without subscribing to the Basis with its proclamation of socialist principles.49 It was Sidney Ball, fellow of St Johns and another person much influenced by Green, who in 1889 instigated Ritchie’s election, presumably in the light of his personal knowledge of Ritchie’s principles and views which he acquired at the discussion groups to which they both belonged.50 Ball cannot have been completely mistaken in his assessment of Ritchie’s politics, or surely Ritchie would have repudiated immediately his enrolment into the Society. In fact, one can understand that many aspects of Fabian socialism would appeal to anyone who had absorbed Green’s perspective, for example, the reaction against the injustice of one class treating another simply as the means to its own advancement, and the advocacy of the use of the power of the state for the good of society. But such attitudes were combined in Green with an acceptance of a capitalist system of property. Given this intellectual background it is perhaps not surprising that Ritchie retained an independent stance towards the Fabians, and to some extent kept his distance.51 When the Fabian Society deviated from its policy of permeating Liberalism, and in ‘To Your Tents, Oh Israel!’ declared war on the Liberal Government and called upon the trade unions to finance a labour party, independent of the Liberal party, and formed in the interests of the working classes, Ritchie resigned (2 November 1893).52 His second wife, Ellen Ritchie, who had joined the Fabians in April 1889, apparently before Ritchie himself was made a member, remained in the Society.53 Ritchie’s letter of resignation shows clearly, I think, that he acted because the attack on the Liberal party meant that he had to choose between Liberalism and Fabianism. He approved the Fabian policy of permeating the Liberal party: but he was equally keen to see Liberal principles permeating the Fabians.54 When this was no longer possible, when the Fabians became impermeable, he severed the formal connection.

One cannot say, then, as some do, that Ritchie was ‘converted’ to Fabianism or assume he subscribed to its principles. Consequently it is very difficult to make inferences about his political beliefs from his temporary membership of the Society. In fact, Ritchie is not the kind of thinker one would expect to find adopting any doctrinaire set of political views. The foundations of his political thought contain an element of a priori principle, but in its application it is, by its very nature, conditional upon facts and circumstances which are recognized to be constantly changing. Any particular policy or institution may be appropriate in some circumstances, but not in others. This pragmatic element, also found in Green, is in tension with an absolute commitment to any party political dogma. This is why, when examining the issue of the proper extent of state interference, Ritchie is happy with the utilitarian question: ‘Is this particular measure expedient in this case?’, provided of course that ‘expedient’ is interpreted in Idealist and not Benthamite terms.55 What he is ‘anxious to urge’, he writes, ‘is, that there is no à priori presumption for or against State interference. We must consider every measure solely from the point of view of the probable effect of it on the welfare of the community as a whole, now and in the future.’56 But this basic stance makes it hard, and risky, to place Ritchie ideologically, to say for instance whether he is, or to what extent he is, a ‘collectivist’ or a ‘socialist’. Collective and socialist measures merit due consideration, to test whether or not they are ‘expedient’: but there is no principled or advance reason for favouring them. At bottom, Ritchie is like Green, an Idealist who uses reason to judge political proposals pragmatically in the light of their likely contribution to his moral ideal, ‘self-realization…for all human beings’.57

For example, is Ritchie, or to what extent is he, a ‘socialist’? The very term is, of course, extremely hard to pin down at this period. Sometimes it was used to label a specific political programme, as in the case of the Fabian Society (although there was a considerable range of opinion among Fabians themselves). But often it was used in a very loose and imprecise way to mean little more than a concern for others and an acceptance that sometimes government interference in social affairs, such as compulsory education, was needed. Here ‘socialism’ was opposed to selfishness, to individualism which is anti-social. ‘Socialism’ in this sense expressed a recognition of the political implications of man’s social nature, and was the opposite not of capitalism (with which it was compatible) but of individualism. It was simply the noun formed from ‘social’.58 Ritchie was sometimes referred to by his contemporaries as holding ‘socialist’ views, but it was more in the second sense than the first. All that Ritchie accepted unconditionally was an epistemological kind of socialism, namely the presuppositions that man is a social animal and that the individual human being must be treated as a member of his or her society, so that institutions such as property, or the rights that individuals hold (including their ‘natural rights’), are social and, since they depend for their existence on the society, should be judged by their contribution to the good of the society. What that ‘good’ was, was in turn defined in the highest moral terms of which the society was capable. For Ritchie, all forms of individualism must be eschewed, and we must ‘emphasize the social ideal as the first principle of ethics and politics’, and this, Latta points out, ‘is what Ritchie meant when he preached “socialism” and described himself as a “socialist”.’59

This epistemological socialism, present too in Green and other British Idealists, has few definite implications in practical politics. It is not decisive between the institution of private property and socialism in the political sense. Ritchie was clear about ‘the social nature of wealth, and the responsibility to the community of those who hold the means of production’.60 He was also clear that the very success of ‘the present competitive industrial system…in opening up the material resources of the earth…has produced ideas which make it possible to believe in a better type of organization in which the captains of industry shall become essentially, and not merely accidentally, the public servants of the whole community’.61 However, Ritchie declines to plump for socialism, to make any kind of advance commitment to it in an a priori, dogmatic form. The successes and the costs of competitive capitalism must be tested empirically; and likewise what is inferred from experience about a better, socialist, organization of society may be true or false and should be discussed and assessed. Ritchie stresses that ‘this is the advantage which the appeal to reason and experience has…. Whether we are attacking or defending any institution, it is always well to be very sure that we are doing so on grounds which admit of reasonable discussion.’62

Ritchie’s position on all issues of practical politics, then, is that every institution and every proposal for change must be subjected to rational investigation and testing, with the welfare of society as the ultimate criterion. His political theory is, in the end, one of reason and reasonableness. In the hands of such a well-informed, intelligent and humane observer and thinker as Ritchie, such a theory works well.63

1 Robert Latta (1865–1932) graduated in Philosophy at Edinburgh in 1886, and in 1892 became Assistant to Henry Jones, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at St Andrews. He stayed on with Ritchie, before becoming Lecturer in Logic and Moral Philosophy at University College, Dundee, in 1898, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, in 1900, and Professor of Logic and Rhetoric, University of Glasgow in 1902 until 1925. His principal publication was his translation, with introduction and notes, of Leibniz’s Monadology (Oxford, 1898), for many years the standard work.

2 For Ritchie’s tutors and friends, see M. Richter, The Politics of Conscience:
T. H. Green and his Age
(London, 1964; repr. Bristol, 1996); Geoffrey Faber, Jowett: A portrait with Background (London, 1957); F. C. Montague, Arnold Toynbee (Baltimore, 1895); A. Milner, Arnold Toynbee, A Reminiscence (London, 1895); A. Kadish, Apostle Arnold: The Life and Death of Arnold Toynbee 1852–1883 (Durham, NC, 1986); E. B. Poulton, John Viriamu Jones and Other Oxford Memories (London, 1911); and J. H. Muirhead, Reflections by a Journeyman in Philosophy on the Movements of Thought and Practice in his Time (London, 1942).

3 Ritchie’s most important action as Librarian was to arrange in 1886 for the depositing of the College manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Jesus being one of the first colleges to do this (information supplied by Dr D. A. Rees, letter to the author 12 July 1962).

4 Letter of 23 July 1889 (see Bibliography for full information on letters cited). Ritchie had considered returning to Scotland to be with his mother for help with raising his five-year-old daughter.

5 From a sketch in the student publication, College Echoes, vol. 13 (1901–1902), p. 99.

6 Obituary in The Times, 5 February 1903, p. 4.

7 Wallace Martin Lindsay (1858–1937, see Dictionary of National Biography), writing to the Principal of St Andrews to support Ritchie’s candidature for the chair (University Muniments, MS 8078, St Andrews University Library, letter of 19 September 1894). Lindsay was a fellow Scot, had been an undergraduate at Balliol overlapping with Ritchie and at this time was a fellow and tutor of Jesus with Ritchie; in 1899 Lindsay became Professor of Humanity at St Andrews. A. D. Lindsay was his nephew.

8 Elsa Richmond (ed.) The Earlier Letters of Gertrude Bell (London, 1937),
p. 152, letter of 20 November 1887. Bell (1868–1926, see Dictionary of National Biography) entered Lady Margaret Hall in May 1886, and in June 1888, still not yet twenty, was the first woman to gain a first in Modern History at Oxford.

9 Burnet (1863–1928, see Dictionary of National Biography), at Balliol 1883–7, became Professor of Greek at St Andrews 1892–1927, and wrote on Greek philosophy; Lang (1864–1945; see Dictionary of National Biography), at Balliol 1882–6, became Archbishop of Canterbury – he recorded Ritchie as ‘a thoughtful, friendly, rather mild and uninspiring teacher’ (quoted in J. G. Lockhart, Cosmo Gordon Lang (London, 1949), p. 36); and Schiller (1864–1937, see Dictionary of National Biography), at Balliol 1882–6, was a philosopher who began as an Idealist but moved to Jamesian pragmatism and was the perpetrator of the famous mock issue of Mind with its portrait of the Absolute (a blank page).

10 See essays I, III, V, VII and VIII in Studies in Political and Social Ethics (1902) and essay IX in Darwin and Hegel (1893). In addition he lectured in Oxford on ‘German Socialism’, winter 1882 (Oxford Cooperative Record, no. 5, April 1822, p. 32); in Rotherhythe in December 1886, on education (letter to Alexander, 30 December 1886); in London to the Fabian Society on ‘The Evolution of Society’, 18 May 1888, and on ‘Natural Rights’, on 20 November 1891 (outlining the argument which grew into his book – see the summary in Fabian News, vol. 1 (1891/2), p. 38); at Toynbee Hall on ‘Utilitarianism’, 2 December 1889 (G. Spiller, The Ethical Movement in Great Britain: A Documentary History (London, 1934), p. 23); and possibly on other occasions, although he found such extra-mural lecturing very tiring. On the Ethical Societies, see Ian MacKillop, The British Ethical Societies (Cambridge, 1986).

11 Oxford Chronicle, 18 August 1894.

12 Stefan Collini, Liberalism and Sociology: L. T. Hobhouse and Political Argu- ment in England 1880–1914 (Cambridge, 1979), p. 164; and David Boucher, in his collection The British Idealists in the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought series (Cambridge, 1997), p. xlii. Boucher reprints Ritchie’s ‘Evolution and Democracy’ and ‘The Rights of Minorities’ with useful annotations, and discusses Ritchie in his helpful introduction to the collection. See too Boucher, ‘British Idealism, the State, and International Relations’, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 55 (1994), pp. 671–94.

13 By the Humboldt Publishing Co., New York. There is no date, but presumably it was issued before 1895 when Ritchie established his copyright by himself publishing the book in the United States with Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.

14 The validity of some of his attacks on Spencer has recently been challenged: see M. W. Taylor, Men Versus the State: Herbert Spencer and Late Victorian Liberalism (Oxford, 1992), pp. 91–3, also, generally, Taylor’s introduction to his collection, Herbert Spencer and the Limits of the State: the Late Nineteenth-Century Debate between Individualism and Collectivism (Bristol, 1996); and David Weinstein, Equal Freedom and Utility: Herbert Spencer’s Liberal Utilitarianism (Cambridge, 1998), and his ‘D. G. Ritchie’s Evolutionary Utilitarianism’ (unpublished manuscript). Incidentally, Ritchie was a signatory to the letter of congratulation sent to Spencer on the completion of his ‘System of Synthetic Philosophy’ in 1896 (David Duncan, The Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer (2 volumes, London, 1908; one-volume edition, 1911), pp. 283–5). The signatories included most of the prominent literary figures of the day, and Ritchie’s presence reflects the high public status he had achieved.

15 Principles of State Interference, p. 108.

16 Review of Henry Sidgwick, The Elements of Politics, International Journal of Ethics, vol. 2 (1891/2), p. 256. The review is reprinted in volume 6. On the place of empirical study of politics, see e.g. Natural Rights, p. 103.

17 Latta, ‘Memoir’, p. 11.

18 For some of the complexities and pitfalls of seeking election to a Scottish chair, see R. D. Anderson, ‘Scottish University Professors, 1800–1939: Profile of an Elite’, Scottish Economic and Social History, vol. 7 (1987), pp. 27–54.

19 Ritchie repeated the advice to Hastings Rashdall, letter of 10 December 1897. Andrew Martin Fairbairn (1838–1912, see Dictionary of National Biography) was the first Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, 1886–1909.

20 Under the 1889 Universities (Scotland) Act, appointments to chairs at St Andrews were made by the Court of the University: for details see R. G. Cant, The University of St Andrews: A Short History (Edinburgh, 1946), p. 123.

21 College Echoes, vol. 13 (1901–1902), p. 99.

22 College Echoes, vol. 14 (1902–1903). p. 147.

23 Vol. 14 (1902–1903), p. 161.

24 For details of these matters and the university generally at this time, see Cant, The University of St Andrews, pt V, chaps. III–IV.

25 Letter to Alexander, 3 April 1891.

26 Letter to Bryce, 24 February 1901. F. W. Maitland’s translation, with an introduction, of Otto Gierke’s Political Theories of the Middle Age was published in 1900 (Cambridge; repr. Bristol, 1996).

27 Letter, 10 December 1897.

28 Letter, 14 March 1896. Lord Bute (1847–1900; see Dictionary of National Biography) wished to suppress the college at Dundee and transfer its resources to St Andrews. Ritchie refers to ‘your’ Bologna doctors because the letter is to congratulate Rashdall on the publication of his monumental The Universities in the Middle Ages (3 volumes, Oxford, 1895).

29 See Cant, The University of St Andrews, for details.

30 A. D. Ritchie, ‘St Andrews and Other Memories’, p. 104, ms in the possession of D. J. Ritchie.

31 Reflections by a Journeyman in Philosophy, p. 50. Ritchie and Muirhead were undergraduates at Balliol together; Ritchie’s Natural Rights was an early volume in the series Muirhead edited, The Library of Philosophy, and Studies in Political and Social Ethics was in Muirhead’s other series, The Ethical Library.

32 Philosophical Studies, p. vi.

33 One of the articles, ‘The Relation of Logic to Psychology’ had been pub- lished as two articles (1896, 1897), but it was written as a single piece and split by the editor: letter to Alexander, 24 January 1897. Ritchie described it there as his old plea for formal logic.

34 F. P. Harris, The Neo-Idealist Political Theory: Its Continuity with the British Tradition (New York, 1944), p. 77.

35 Letter to Bryce, 7 February 1894.

36 Rudolf Metz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, trans. J. W. Harvey, T. E. Jessop and H. Sturt, ed. J. H. Muirhead (London, 1938), p. 299. A fuller account of Ritchie’s philosophy is Hiralal Haldar, Neo-Hegelianism (London, 1927), chap. VI. The best summary of Ritchie’s philosophical position and views is the second part of Latta’s ‘Memoir’; that incorporates many long extracts from letters and papers which, so far as I know, have not otherwise survived.

37 ‘The Rationality of History’ (1883) is in volume 6. Ritchie wrote it on his ‘wedding tour’, he told his old Edinburgh professor, Blackie, ‘so that if there is any good in it, it may serve as an argument that marriage does the reverse of hindering a man in his work!’: letter, 10 January 1883.

38 See for example ‘Darwin and Hegel’ (1891) in the collection of that title, and the review of Morris (1888), reprinted in volume 6.

39 F. P. Harris titles his chapter on Ritchie ‘The Capture of Evolution’.

40 A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, p. 300.

41 See Prolegomena to Ethics (1883), Introduction, Book I, and Book II, chap. 1; most of this had originally been published by Green as a series of articles in Mind (1882) entitled ‘Can There Be a Science of Man?’.

42 ‘Germany in 1826: Extracts from a Diary of the late Rev. David Aitken’, Scottish Review, vol. 24 (1894), pp. 106–107. Aitken visited Hegel on 17 April 1826, and wrote in his diary:

My last call this day was to Dr Hegel, Professor of Philosophy – a free and communicative man with whom I had a long, but not very philosophical conversation, although upon philosophy. Better lodged and garbed than Neander. Spoke of Scotch metaphysics, the leading principles of which he knew, but apparently not from the originals and not very profoundly. I endeavoured to impress him with some idea of Dr Thomas Brown. An intimate friend of [?Anstie] of whose talents and knowledge of German philosophy he spoke highly. In answer to a question of mine repeatedly said that there was no book or books which he would recommend as giving a correct idea of German philosophy. That the Germans wrote for themselves, and not only that, but also only for men of profession, and did not possess the talent of writing for the public. Tennemann and Tiedemann’s histories both bad, the Abridgement by Reichardt [?] of Leipzig, which I have, better. Expected a work from Krause of Göttingen, which would be ‘gediegener’ [more solid]. Kant’s philosophy not only no longer in vogue, but to be a Kantist something like a term of reproach – that, nevertheless, Kant’s philosophy explained in his and other lectures as forming an era, and being the foundation of modern German metaphysics. Kant’s best works – Kritik der reinen Vernunft, der praktischen Vernunft, and a third, [Urtheils]Kraft. The work upon religion never made a great public impression, yet internally very interesting. Hegel ascribed the connotations of modern theology to the circumstance that philosophy or reason was excluded from theological enquiry. For, if it be adopted as a principle that reason can judge or decide nothing, then there must be another source from which our notions and views are derived. This exists – the Bible. But the Bible is subjected to exegetical interpretation, and thereby every sect and every party bring out of it just what is desired. No one of Schelling’s writings (the last person who has formed a system) gives a good idea of his principles. They rise and are concatenated – has expressed them most condensedly and decidedly in some numbers of a Zeitschrift. Thought little possibility of German philosophy being known out of the country. Said that, whatever differences there might be in the development, the radical principles of the French and British philosophy were the same, viewed in contradistinction to the German. The starting point of Kant Hume’s scepticism. An [word missing] person, though perhaps a little commonplace sometimes, and not possessed of much cleverness of utterance. Read Morning Chronicle and [?Edinburgh?] Review – (pp. 110–11).

Aitken met Hegel again on the 22 April: ‘Revisited Hegel, talked of English politics and newspapers, of which Hegel was a constant reader’ (p. 117).

43 Letter to Alexander, 24 January 1897.

44 In the Preface Jowett states he ‘has to acknowledge the great assistance which he has received from several friends, especially from Mr David Ritchie in the composition of the Notes’ (Benjamin Jowett, The Politics of Aristotle Translated into English with Introduction, Marginal Analysis, Essays, Notes and Indices (2 volumes, Oxford, 1885). The Notes constitute the second volume, of more than 300 pages.

45 Michael Freeden, The New Liberalism: An Ideology of Social Reform (Oxford, 1978), pp. 16–19 and 58–9. See too Freeden’s discussions of Ritchie in Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach (Oxford, 1996). Similarly Peter Clarke, Liberals and Social Democrats (Cambridge, 1978), pp. 26–7, views Ritchie’s collectivism as going beyond Green.

46 John Morrow, ‘Liberalism and British Idealist Political Philosophy: A Reas- sessment’, History of Political Thought, vol. 5 (1984), pp. 91–108, at p. 108. One of Morrow’s pieces of evidence for Ritchie is the paper ‘Pauperism in the Light of the Theory of Natural Selection’ (1893), reprinted in volume 6. See too Mark Francis and John Morrow, A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1994), chap. 13.

47 Oxford Chronicle, 4 June 1887, p. 2, moves vote of thanks at a lecture on ‘The Whole Irish Question’; Oxford Chronicle, 22 October 1887, p. 8, present at a public meeting of the Oxford Liberal Association on the Irish Question; Oxford Chronicle, 3 December 1887, p. 7, present at address by his friend R. B. Haldane calling for a separate and subordinate Parliament for Ireland; Oxford Chronicle, 17 December 1887, p. 2, at meeting to establish Home Rule League for Oxford University and elected to Committee (he is still on the Com- mittee in 1891; among the other members were L. T. Hobhouse and John Burnet: ‘List of Members 1891’, Bodleian Library, G. A. Oxon. 8o 1127 (19)); Oxford Chronicle, 25 February 1888, p. 7, signs address to Gladstone (other signatories include his friends Rhys, Fairbairn, Poulton, Firth, Alexander and W. J. Ashley, and his brother-in-law A. A. MacDonell); Oxford Chronicle, 10 March 1888, p. 7, at inaugural banquet of Oxford University Home Rule Union; Oxford Chronicle, 12 May 1888, p. 6, at public meeting for Home Rule, and dinner with speakers beforehand.

48 Oxford Chronicle, 25 February 1888, p. 8. Oxford Chronicle, 28 July 1888, p. 5 and 27 October, p. 6, reports tributes to her work for the Association.

49 Letter to Pease, 1/2 November 1893, printed in volume 6. For the Basis, to which those joining the Society were expected to subscribe, see Edward R. Pease, The History of the Fabian Society (London, 1916), p. 269: it stated that the Fabian Society ‘consists of socialists’ and ‘aims at the reorganization of society by the emancipation of Land and Industrial Capital from individual and class ownership, and the vesting of them in the community for the general benefit… . The Society accordingly works for the extinction of private property in Land… . The Society, further, works for the transfer to the community of the administration of such industrial Capital as can conveniently be managed by society.’

50 A. M. McBriar, Fabian Socialism and English Politics 1884–1918 (Cambridge, 1962), p. 74; and for further details, Mark Fraga, The Political Thought of David George Ritchie: Elements of a Late-Victorian Liberal Creed (MPhil thesis, Oxford, 1989), p. 101; see pp. 100–107 generally – I am indebted to Fraga for his researches and discussions here. For Ball, see Oona A. Ball (ed.), Sidney Ball: Memories and Impressions of an Ideal Don (Oxford, 1933). Ball had joined the Fabian Society in 1886, and in 1895 established an Oxford branch. On Ritchie as a Fabian, see too Christopher Sykes, ‘Eliminating the Yahoo: Eugenics, Social Darwinism and Five Fabians’, History of Political Thought, vol. 8 (1987), pp. 521–44, and Sandra M. den Otter, British Idealism and Social Explanation: A Study in Late Victorian Thought (Oxford, 1996), pp. 113–15. Sandra den Otter’s fine book contains the fullest consideration of Ritchie’s thought generally, covering all aspects together with the intellectual and institutional context.

51 See his letters to Pease, 27 February 1893 and 31 October 1893, printed in volume 6; and Fraga, pp. 104–106.

52 On ‘To Your Tents’, see my notes to Ritchie’s letter of resignation to Pease, 1/2 November 1893, in volume 6. Only five other members resigned (Fabian News, 10 December 1893, p. 38). The most notable was H. W. Massingham, who had been on the Executive Committee: Alfred F. Havighurst, Radical Journalist: H. W. Massingham (Cambridge, 1974), chap.3.

53 She lectured to the Society on ‘Women under Socialism’: Fabian News, 19 February 1892, with summary. She is also the author of ‘National Waste’ [i.e. of the resource women constitute], Westminster Review, vol. 144 (1895), pp. 545-551. Her membership card, in the Fabian Society records at the British Library of Economic and Political Science, LSE, shows her as joining 9 April 1889 and resigning in February 1910.

53 She lectured to the Society on ‘Women under Socialism’ on 19 February 1892, see summary, Fabian News, vol. 2 (1892/3), pp. 1–2. She is also the author of ‘National Waste’ [i.e. of the resource women constitute], Westminster Review, vol. 144 (1895), pp. 545–51. Her membership card, in the Fabian Society records at the British Library of Economic and Political Science, LSE, shows her as joining 9 April 1889 and resigning in February 1910.

54 See the letter to Pease, 1/2 November 1893, in volume 6. The SDF, Hardie and Tillett, all subjects of Ritchie’s hostility in the letter, had in common the policy of going direct to the working class and cutting out the Liberals.

55 Principles of State Interference, p. 107.

56 ‘Law and Liberty’ (1892), Studies in Political and Social Ethics, p. 65.

57 Principles of State Interference, p. 151. Ritchie is expounding Green, but it is an ideal he shared, e.g. Principles of State Interference, pp. 171–2.

58 See for instance the analysis of the ‘socialism’ of the Christian Social Union in Gertrude Himmelfarb, Poverty and Compassion: the Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians (New York, 1991), pp. 341–2.

59 ‘Memoir’, pp. 41–2.

60 ‘Locke’s Theory of Property’ (1891), reprinted in Darwin and Hegel, pp. 194–5; also Natural Rights, pp. 269–70.

61 Natural Rights, pp. 104–105.

62 Natural Rights, p. 105.

63 I am grateful for their assistance to Matt Carter, John Morrow, Colin Tyler, David Weinstein and Jane Williamson.

Peter Nicholson
University of York, 1998

The Collected Works of D.G. Ritchie

Peter P. Nicholson (ed.), 'Introduction', The Collected Works of D. G. Ritchie (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1998), pp. vii-xxviii.

© Peter P. Nicholson, 1998.
All rights reserved. For personal Use only.