Friday, February 15, 2013

British Idealism Studies -- join today!

I had the honour of becoming the new Treasurer and Membership Secretary of the British Idealism specialist group, partly funded by the Political Studies Association.


During the middle of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, British Idealism was the dominant philosophy in Britain and permeated the whole English-speaking world with the writings and influence of such exponents as T.H. Green, F.H.Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, Edward Caird, Henry Jones, Andrew Seth, D.G.Ritchie, J.S.Mackenzie, William Wallace, J.M.E.McTaggart, John Watson, J.H.Muirhead, R.G.Collingwood, and Michael Oakeshott. The British Idealists introduced into Britain the philosophical discourse of German, and later Italian Idealism and made an important re-assessment of its cardinal doctrines. Furthermore, they were critically engaged in a fruitful philosophical dialogue with the Italian and American exponents of Philosophical Idealism and with the representatives of different philosophical traditions such as utilitarianism, realism and pragmatism. The British Idealists were influenced by Greek classical political thought (especially by the political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle), by the philosophical system of German Idealism (Kant, Fichte, Hegel), and by the insights of the British philosophical tradition (Hobbes, Hume, Locke). They produced philosophical work which made original contributions to Aesthetics, Logic, Metaphysics, Theology, philosophy of history and Social and Political Philosophy. Their Social and Political Philosophy is, probably, the most important project because it contains the practical application of the conceptual and normative systems they elaborated and developed. The main achievements of the political philosophy of the British Idealists were:
  • To develop an important and significant relation between theory and practice, between philosophical speculation and social work, politics, and social policy;
  • To elaborate a comprehensive scheme concerning the philosophical foundations of politics;
  • To emphasise the fundamental relation between Society, State and the Individual and, thus, to oppose narratives and interpretations of social and political life that focus on the claims of a narrow atomistic individualism;
  • To propound a more comprehensive version of liberal political theory by emhasising the intrinsic interdependence between society and the individuals, and to develop a political philosophy structured around the key-concept of the commitment to the Common Good; and
  • To have influenced public policy by active participation in politics.
The recent revival of interest in the moral, social, and political philosophy of the British Idealists requires systematic research into the meaning, significance and contribution of the doctrines they developed. They have a contemporary relevance in that they address such issues as the role of the state; theorise communitarianism; seek to extend the moral community beyond state borders; and, theorise about rights. The British Idealism Specialist Group will encourage research and study focused on the corpus of the British Idealists' writings in relation to themes which are associated with broader issues in the areas of political science, ethics, social and political philosophy, history of ideas, British and Continental political thought, sociology, and social policy. There is no restriction on the methodological and interpretative approaches employed and new innovative interdisciplinary projects of re-assessment, critical examination, and reconstruction of the British Idealists' philosophy are welcome. The British Idealism Specialist Group has three main foci which cover the following areas of research:
Theory of the State; the nature of the State and its contribution to the individual's self-realisation and the progress of society; the limits of State action; the question of structure and agency; government; political obligation; authority and autonomy; the Common Good, Will and Freedom; ethical socialism and theories of property; social and international justice; punishment, character-building; legal philosophy; the State and International Relations in philosophical perspective: cosmopolitanism, patriotism, nationalism, international justice and human rights, citizenship, identity and universality; Democracy and Liberalism.
Ethics and Community; Care, Social Policy and decision-making; mind, spirituality, human nature and character; Individuality, Politics and the aesthetic dimension; the phenomenological perspective: consciousness and identity, meaning, nature and the hermeneutics of self-experience; conceptions of the self, pluralism, multiculturalism, rights, recognition and self-determination; social action and agency.
British Idealism and issues in contemporary political philosophy: the debate between liberals and communitarians; feminist perspective; methodological and epistemological issues related to the study of Political Science and Political Philosophy; British Idealism and other philosophical traditions (utilitarianism, pragmatism, realism, individualism, evolutionary theories); comparisons between British Idealism and other brands of Philosophical Idealism (German, American, Greek and Italian); British Idealism and theories of Modernity and Post-Modernity; the contribution of British Idealism to British Political Thought and to Political Philosophy in general.
1. Panels.To organise 1-2 panels on the topic of British Idealism at the Annual Political Studies Association Conference, and other occasional day conferences at various venues.
2. The Annual Conference of the Specialist Group. Initial preparations are in hand to hold the first conference at Gregynog, University of Wales, for which some funding is available.
3. Communications. The circulation among the members of a Directory with the names and e-mail addresses of the members.
4. Annual Report. Preparation of the Annual Report of the Specialist Group submitted to the PSA.
Membership runs for one calendar year from 1 January.
There is a sliding scale of membership charges, but each category is of equal status and will not be designated on the membership card.
Senior Staff£6.00
Postgraduates and Tutors£2.00
The aim is to encourage as many interested scholars as possible to join without making the membership fee prohibitive.
If you are interested in joining us please contact the Membership Secretary (below)

Professor David Boucher, Professorial Fellow, The School of European Studies, Cardiff University, Humanities Building, P.O. Box 908, Cardiff CF1 3YQ
Andrew Vincent, Professor of Political Theory, The School of European Studies, Cardiff University, Humanities Building, P.O. Box 908, Cardiff CF1 3YQ

Dr Maria Dimova-Cookson, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, Durham DH1 3TU
Dr Thom Brooks, Durham Law School, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE (email: thom.brooks at

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