Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thom Brooks on "What Did the British Idealists Ever Do for Us?"

. . . is available here on SSRN. It is forthcoming in an edited collection, New Waves in Ethics, with Palgrave Macmillan. The paper's abstract is:

"Perhaps one of the most underappreciated philosophical movements is British Idealism. This movement arose during the latter half of the nineteenth century and began to wane after the outbreak of the First World War. British Idealism has produced a number of important figures, such as Bernard Bosanquet, R. G. Collingwood, F. H. Bradley, and T. H. Green, as well as other important, but less well known figures, such as J. S. Mackenzie, John Henry Muirhead, and James Seth. It has also given us a number of lasting philosophical ideas.

These ideas have begun to find a new audience amongst contemporary philosophers. For example, there have been several studies of individual British Idealists, such as Green and Collingwood, in addition to more general studies. There is also work specifically exploring the contemporary relevance of British Idealist philosophy and this essay will make a similar contribution.

In this essay, I will focus on one of these ideas: the novel approach to theorising about the philosophy of punishment. I focus on this because I believe it is one of the more fruitful aspects of British Idealism’s legacy today. It is also an area that has commanded much of my research interest. While important differences remain between them, British Idealists had significant overlap in areas like punishment. One such overlap is their attempt to view theories of punishment from a new perspective, namely, as part of a single, coherent, and unified theory of punishment rather than as rival camps. Indeed, most theorists today would categorise themselves according to various camps whether it be retributivism, deterrence, rehabilitation, expressivism or communicative theories, restorative justice or other positions. The British Idealist argued against such factionalism in favour of offering us a unified theory of punishment."

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